Be a Socorro.

Ain’t no mountain high, valley low, or river wide.

You’ve all heard it: that classic, feel-good song by Diana Ross that makes us belt at the top of our lungs. Don’t worry, I’ll spare you my rendition.

Those high mountains, low valleys, and wide rivers? Those are the obstacles in life that try to keep you from getting where you want to go. They want to cripple you until you’re waving that little white flag.

I know a young girl that had a big dream, but the odds were stacked against her. Everything in life was telling her, “Nope, you won’t be able to do that. Just surrender.” Well, she had a message for that little white flag:

NOT TODAY.

That girl’s name is Socorro, and she is the hardest worker I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Her work ethic was (and is) so far out of this realm that I, her teacher, was learning from her.

I like to consider myself a hard worker, but I always had the necessary resources and people at home to push me just the right amount academically.

She did not.

This is her story of how she came from so little but amounted to so much. With her permission, it is my honor to tell it.

Socorro is the oldest daughter of seven children in a loving family. This family of nine lived tightly in a small home. Their one working car was barely reliable, but her parents made do. Even as the oldest girl, Socorro wore hand-me-downs passed to her from her father’s co-worker whose daughter had outgrown them. If she did have anything new, they were from thrift or discount stores.

Her parents did the absolute best to stretch their dollars and provide for all of the kids. In fact, they did so well at hiding their financial struggles that Socorro had no idea of them as a young child.

When Socorro was 10, however, her family faced a difficult tragedy.

One of her brothers, only six, died suddenly and unexpectedly. A community fundraiser was held to pay for his funeral, something her parents could not afford. His death was absolutely heart wrenching, and it served as her first realization that her family was poor.

From that point, she made a decision.

As backwards as it sounds, she was going to use the death of her young brother as inspiration. Inspiration to not let this tragedy and poverty set her back. It was fuel to push her forward.

With this new flame lit inside, her work ethic was born. She started down a path, one that would be full of mountains, valleys, and rivers.

School work began to take a toll on her. Not because it was too difficult. It was because she didn’t have the needed resources at home to complete them. Can you imagine taking an advanced placement history course that required weekly typed essay responses and had a hefty penalty if turned in late? Can you imagine doing ANYTHING without Internet access or a computer at home?

That’s why Socorro was the first one in the library every morning and the last one to leave, almost daily. Getting as much done there was her goal, for she felt guilty doing homework at home. It took her away from chores, helping her mother, and assisting younger siblings with their schoolwork.

Guilty.

I’ve heard many words associated with homework, but that’s not one of them.

She was at school earlier and longer than some of us teachers, because that’s what it took under her circumstances. I remember one instance so vividly that will leave a lasting impression on me.

For some reason, there was one day that Socorro was unable to save her essay work done on a computer in the library. In fear of receiving a late penalty, she arrived to school very early the next morning. I can’t remember what went wrong that prevented her from using a library computer, but she was stuck and frantic.

When so many others would have given up, she reevaluated and came up with a different solution.

She borrowed an old cell phone, one without the capabilities they have today, and proceeded to type her essay using those tiny keys hoping there’d be someway to print it from there. Now, y’all remember cell phones when they weren’t touch screen, right? I’ll let this resonate for a minute.

She did that, because that’s what it took.

Somehow, her determination won in that situation, and she turned in a typed essay on time. I would get so disappointed in students who complained about doing classwork. Students, who had the luxury of Internet and a computer in the comfort of their own home, complained. They didn’t have to live at the library. If they only knew…

Socorro’s struggle with affording project materials, Internet access, and hoping the family car could get her to the library continued through high school. Somehow, she not only graduated very near the top ten percent of her class, she was inducted into the National Honor Society.

Her next feat was to convince her parents that pursuing education and college after high school, something that seemed so out of reach and unaffordable, was what she dreamed. She would not settle for finding a minimum wage job after high school.

She had bigger plans.

Socorro enrolled in a small college near her hometown. She worked while attending school as a Pre-K aide at an elementary school in the district where she grew up. It was there she realized she wanted to become a teacher.

That job was only contracted for one year, so she had to worry about how she would make up the difference her financial aid did not cover to pay for college. She eventually found a SPED inclusion job working with students in grades 1-5. From there, she transferred to Texas State in San Marcos.

Socorro was the first in her family to go to college.

When she made it to San Marcos, she didn’t know anyone, but she was there and savored it. At one point, she was working three jobs AND attending classes just to pay for college. Can you believe that?

In 2020, she will graduate with an EC-6 Bilingual Generalist certification with a minor in Spanish. It may have taken her longer than 4 years to graduate college because of the work schedule she had to juggle with her classes, but she will graduate.

She will be the first collegiate graduate in her family. It tickles me to death that she will become a teacher, too. She will take her work ethic into the classroom as an educator and pour it into her students.

Never let life or the lack of money tell you no. Socorro didn’t. As she showed us, all you have to have is a will. If your will is strong enough, it will scale any mountain, cross any valley, and skid through any river.

Odds and obstacles? She owned them. Be a Socorro.

Build relationships with kids. It may be the only one they have. Oh, and laugh while doing it.

Next to being a Christian, wife, and mother, my favorite role is teacher. Although my place is at home with my kids right now, I miss it, and I often reminisce on the almost ten years I spent in the classroom.

When you’ve taught kids from 8 years old all the way to 18, like I have, your style in the classroom needs to be flexible. You can’t expect the same things from an elementary student you do from a kid in high school. However, two things always remained the same regardless of the age or subject I was teaching, and I consider them THE most important ingredients to not only fulfill you as an educator, but your students as well.  My motto?

Teach kids, not subjects, and laugh while doing it. 

Yes, teaching the academics our state mandates is a responsibility as an educator, but, in my opinion, drilling them on iambic pentameter shouldn’t be at the expense of teaching important social skills and getting to know them as individuals.

Students need to know the meaning of acceptance and adopt kindness as a virtue. They need to know what it means to defend themselves and others respectively. They need to know how to help themselves and others along the way. They need to know where the high road is and how taking it makes you stronger. They need to know how work ethic earns your rewards, not intelligence. Hey educators, in more cases than we want to realize, they need YOU to teach those things. They need YOU to love them.

Your class could be the only positivity they see in a day, so make it count.

I admit, I’m totally guilty of the complaints common among educators. I’ve been there, said that. How is it possible to create an engaging lesson everyday that caters to all learning abilities when you have the stresses of teaching and test scores breathing down your back? Five students in a class of 37 turned in their homework assignment. FIVE!

Wait, you have a class of thirty seven?! The lesson you spent days, not hours, DAYS planning and had such high hopes for completely bombed. Oh, you spent some of your own big teacher bucks for the supplies, too. You can’t find your granola bar, which is all you’ll have time to eat all day. Oh, there it is, under that stack of ungraded papers that weighs more than Godzilla.

Exhaustion is an understatement the morning you spill coffee on your white pants, which is the same day you have to teach MLA documentation. You can’t even look good doing it.

I’m sorry, I didn’t know I had to be a freaking SUPERHERO when I signed on for these long hours and low pay. Why do I even try? It’s not making a difference.

Oh, but it is.

If you teach for the kids and not for the MLA formatting skills, it is. Getting to know your students and what makes them tick takes some hard work and investigation, but

IT IS SO WORTH IT.

If your care, protection from ridicule, and strong desire to witness their successes is genuine in your heart and in their eyes, you’ve won them.

They may rather get throat punched than learn MLA formatting, but they’ll do it. They’ll do it because you’re the one teaching them, and you took the time to show you care before you brought out those note slides.

Teach them the importance of caring by caring for them.

It’s a beautiful thing, but it’s drop dead gorgeous when young people begin to pour care and kindness into one another. That’s my absolute favorite, and this domino effect does happen. I’ve been lucky enough to witness it in some incredible kids.

So, when you’re beaten down and exhausted, don’t forget what/who you’re fighting for as a teacher.

When all you want to do is give in from frustration, remember who may regard you and your class as their reason to continue.

Don’t ignore the boy who interrupts you 356 times in one lesson. Maybe his parents ignore him, too. Remember the girl who seems to have it all together because, I promise you, she doesn’t, and it might not be her fault.

Always be there for the football player whose dad puts so much pressure on his performance on the field that everything else in his life seems obsolete. The girl who just tested positive on a pregnancy test and fears disownment from her father, give her your shoulder and ear for even just a little while before she breaks the news. She came to YOU, after all.

Pay mind to the one everyone else, including you, thinks is so annoying. He’s fighting hard to get noticed for a reason. For that ten year old who yearns for his mother’s attention, but she only responds to the bad behavior, be his support when he sings and dances in the school program.

Don’t forget the one teased about her sexuality, for she is feeling dangerously alone.  Give that seventeen year old who works two jobs after school to pay her parent’s rent and grocery bill for younger siblings an extension on that assignment. She’s tired, and she’s having to grow up way beyond her years.

Compared to some kids, we teachers have it easy, wouldn’t you say?

Sadly, I’ve faced, firsthand, every situation above and more in my short time as a teacher. They are just kids, and I love them.

Yes, if you sign on as a teacher, you damn well be that superhero. Be their superhero. Even if they drive you crazy at times and turn you gray before your 30th birthday, be their superhero. You and I both know you don’t teach for that massive salary, so I’ll say it again.

Be their superhero.

On a lighter note, be funny in the classroom. Glide across your room from door to computer “M.C. Hammer” style just because. It’s the best way to take attendance. Record an audio reading of Animal Farm of yourself using absolutely RIDICULOUS voices for the different animals and play it instead of having them read to themselves. I mean, make Squealer SQUEAL.

One of my prior coworkers, who was great at building rapport, used to wear a wig the first few days of school to throw off the kids. Their faces the day he removed it like it was no big deal…epic. It caught the kids’ attention and was the beginning of an unforgettable relationship with his students, I’m sure. A dadgum wig started that, y’all. That’s awesome.

You’ve got to have fun.

The kids eat up your “lack of coolness” because you’re old.

Well, older than them. You’re not old…unless you don’t believe in humor.

So, trip over something a few times and cluck like a chicken out of nowhere. Clear the desks out of the room and let them think comfortably. Be silly, fun, memorable, and creative as long as you can bring them back to their academic responsibilities, too. If the ridiculousness ties to the lesson, which was always my goal, it’s an even bigger plus. Don’t just teach, make memories.

When my babies are older, I would love to return to the classroom and continue making memories. Thus far, I am honored to have had as teachers and gotten to work with such creative, compassionate, unbelievable educators who are above and beyond workers. I’m blessed to know each and every one of you. You know who you are.

To all my prior students, younger and older, you are the reason.  I love each and every one of you. 

So, teachers, what are you waiting for?

That white pant coffee stain is washable, and you can sleep on Christmas break. Strap on your cape, you rockstar, teacher you.

Holla,
Ramsi

Let’s get started building those relationships!
One of my hilarious students drew this picture of me. I loved it so much that I hung it in my classroom .
Some of my first graduating AVID students. I love them all.
Our 9th grade English showcase.

Yup, another blog.

Writing.  It’s so therapeutic and clears the cobwebs that fog my head.  In a world full of sleepless nights, dirty diapers, crustless PBJs, boy bathrooms, and Bubble Guppies, it’s just what I need.  A little adult conversation, which is what this sort of feels like, certainly helps, too.  So, here we go – another blog about being a mom (and other stuff).  Buckle up!  It’s a bumpy ride, but it’s the BEST ride!

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I keep this sign posted in my kitchen for some good vibes.

Hi, I’m Ramsi.  I’m a teacher turned stay at home mommy to two beautiful half Hispanic – half white little boys.  Thank God they didn’t get my dadgum pasty ghost-white coloring, so I love the “mix of mexy” in them.  They are my world and as much as I joke about the stresses of being a mom (well, you’ll eventually see that), I wouldn’t want my life any other way.  This crazy, exhausting, exciting, intense, unforgettable thing we call motherhood that spins us into a myriad of emotions on a daily basis is what I’d like to chat about.  I’m passionate about other things, too, like teaching (about ten years in the English, AVID, and elementary classroom), education, kindness, and my reality TV guilty pleasures like Big Brother, so there will be some random ramblings mixed in here.

Before I post my first official post while sitting on a fence post in Post, Texas, I have a few disclaimers.  Number 1 – I’m super sarcastic.  You can ask some of my prior high school students or close friends, and they’ll tell you.  It’s just the way I am, and I carry it everywhere I go.  Blogging isn’t an exception.  I love to be silly and laughing uncontrollably is one of my favorite things to do, so if my future sarcasm offends anyone, I apologize ahead of time, and I’ll allow you to stop reading my posts.  Number 2 – I use the word “dadgum” a lot.  Like, a lot.  It keeps me from saying a really naughty word (which do slip sometimes, I admit, but never in front of my kids) when I want to add emphasis or express passion about something.  Sorry if it gets annoying.  What’s annoying are the little red squigglies under the word dadgum when I type it.  Like, get over it, Spellcheck.  It’s my word.

Well, I’ll get to writing and posting a little bit later.  Stay tuned, my friends.  Or, don’t, if you don’t care about kids and moms and life and stuff. Dadgum.

Holla,

Ramsi