Vision in the South Bronx
When I was in the 5th grade, I was bored. I had always been a good student but around 5th grade I think I realized it for myself. I also realized that I could play around in class and with my friends and still get all my work done. I wasn't being challenged. My 5th grade teacher, my first male teacher, Mr. Richard Davigan saw my behavior change. He saw me begin the process of mentally checking out of school each and every day. So one day after class, he asked me to wait because he wanted to talk to me.
Mr. Davigan told me he knew I was bored in class. He said he could see that I wasn't feeling challenged and he suspected it to be the root of my negative behavior. He said a lot of other things that I don't remember anymore but the one thing he said that I have never forgotten is "You don't belong here. You belong in a school that is going to challenge you and push you to do things you can't yet imagine. I'll make you a deal. If you stick with me this year and get all the work I give you done, I promise you that I will get you out of here." It may not sound like much but it was the first time someone saw the real me and even then, I knew that was my chance. I did do all that Mr. Davigan gave me...and at the end of the year, he kept his promise. Mr. Davigan convinced my mom to let me go, and then he got me transferred into a school for gifted students. That simple act changed my life forever.
Many years later, while working on my Ph.D. I had many mental conversations with Mr. Davigan. I remember feeling as if I had reached my own personal glass ceiling and wanted to quit the program. It was at that moment that Mr. Davigan's words came back to me but this time only different. When I was feeling at my lowest, Mr. Davigan reminded that if I just stuck to it, at the end of the year, I would be fine. He promised me...and again he didn't break his promise. Not only did I get through that year, but I graduated with my Ph.D.
I have shared my story many times and although I have remained in contact with Mr. Davigan, I have never fully explained to him the impact his words had on me. Hopefully this note will help him to see how powerful he really was.