Before I answer the title question, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Terence White and I teach 7th grade science in Aurora, IL. I am married to a science teacher who also teaches 7th grade. I have two kids named Elliott and Amelia and they are my inspiration for creating a better future for our world. I chose “The Phoenix” for the title of this blog because I see connections between the myth of the Phoenix and my own personal story. I was born in Chicago in a broken home where my mother was a drug addict and my father was in and out of jail for numerous crimes. When I was four, my mother left my siblings and I in an abandoned apartment building and we were found by the authorities. I will not bore you with the details but to make a long story short, I was sent into foster care and eventually to a group home at the age of nine until I graduated from high school.
During this time, I required a lot of assistance from my teachers to keep me out of jail and alive. Without positive teachers in my life, who knows where I would be today. I feel that I was buried in the ashes my entire life and I have gradually rose out of the ashes and I am now becoming a force in my teaching, education, and my family life. The purpose of this blog is to share stories of teachers and students who are becoming “Phoenixes” in their school and in their lives. Throughout this blog, I will ask guest bloggers to share stories about great things they are doing in their classroom and in their lives that makes them a Phoenix. I would like to welcome you to this new blog and please follow me on twitter @terencewhite23.
Part 1 was just an introduction of myself. Part 2 I am going to let you into a very personal part of my past. I believe it is important to share the delicate details of my past because it not only shapes who I am as a person today, but it’s also a tale for educators that all kids can make it regardless of their upbringing. All kids need are educators that believe in them and will not give up on them. If I can make it, anyone can make it.
As I stated in part 1, I came from a broken home and eventually my mother and father lost their parental rights and I was taken to foster care. The foster home I was in, was a living hell (though I didn’t know it at the time). The care taker had three of us. Two of them were mentally and physically challenged and needed a lot of help with everyday functions. The caretakers would feed us and make sure we had clothes on our back, but when it came to love and compassion, it was nonexistent. As a matter of fact, they were physically and mentally abusive to all of us and their way of punishment consisted of beating us with a 2×4. I would go to school with bruises and cuts almost every week from the physical abuse I endured at home. In addition, I attended school at a time where corporal punishment was legal, allowing both teachers and principals to hit the students; I never got any relief. This constant abuse a child who was often very angry and emotional.
After five years, the caretakers became too sick to take care of us, so we were put into the group home circuit where every night, I would go from group home to group home, never having a permanent place to stay. Eventually at the age of 9, I would be sent to my “forever” home at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, IL. At this time, I would learn that I have two siblings that live there. I never knew I had siblings until I came to Maryville Academy. This would be the best thing that would happen to me in my childhood. In school, I would misbehave, swear at teachers, and even hit them because I was filled with 9 years of anger, rage and unpredictability. These actions caused me to be transferred to a BD school, where I went to see a therapist on a weekly basis (who became one of my best friends and an usher in my wedding – more on that in part 3) to work out my anger issues. My teacher at school and at the group home were my lifeline and support system; they were the only people I had in my life. My teachers saw something in me that I never saw in myself. They thought I was smart, never gave up on me, and consistently pushed me to reach my full potential. At age 11 and after attending the BD school for two years, I worked my way out and was mainstreamed into the “regular” school.
At the “regular” school, I had some very influential teachers who acknowledged my past, but helped prepare me for my future. For the first time in my life, I felt I was on equal ground with my peers, which made me feel good about myself as a student and as an individual. Middle school was the best three years I had in my K-12 school career because of the many teachers that took the time to develop a relationship with me. Their constant extrinsic motivation fueled my intrinsic motivation which lead me to becoming the student council president, and speaking at my 8th grade graduation. Please stay tuned for part 3 of Why a Phoenix.