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It Is Possible! Don't Give Up!

My name is Dr. Claudia Morgan-Morris and I am from Jamaica, West Indies and have always wanted to become a teacher. My goal was to support student achievement and to help students develop as respectful and responsible individuals. My decision to become a teacher was not a tough decision It was a dream come through. After attaining a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Economics in 1987, from Fordham University, I landed a job at AT&T as a Budget Manager. After 23 years, I retired in 1991 and started a new career in working in Private Elementary Schools.

My journey of becoming a certified teacher in the public school system began later in life than it does for most people. While working in private public school, I began to think about the possibility of becoming a certified public school teacher. As I journeyed through my tenure in private school, I often wondered what it would be like working with students in high needs location. I would watch the children grow and flourish in and out of the classroom, I decided it was time to pursue my dream. I realized that like the teachers that have helped my daughter, nieces, and nephews achieve, I too could make a positive contribution in the classroom.

I would never have imagined going back to school after twenty-one years. In the fall of 2008, I continued to further my education at Touro College by pursuing a Masters in Science degree in Childhood/Special Education in 2010. This was no small undertaking, after being out of school over two decades, but rather a huge accomplishment. I had spent countless hours during many nights and weekends working on school work or writing a paper.

Despite being tired, I pushed on, as I knew deep down the hard work and determination would someday pay off. The motto, “Never Give Up”, is one I instill in my students as my own journey is proof that commitment and dedication do pay off. In 2010, at the age of sixty, after working one year as a Substitute Teacher at New York City Department of Education, I was appointed a job as a Classroom Teacher where I was responsible for teaching students with special needs.

After two years of rigorous schoolwork while working as a full-time teacher, I was physically and mentally spent when I started writing my doctoral dissertation. But despite this unimaginable exhaustion, I felt inspired, empowered, and euphoric because now, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was almost at the completion of something I had worked so hard to accomplish. It took me almost two years to complete my dissertation while working on several projects.

I remember how writing the last chapter of my dissertation and getting it approved, was the most challenging. It was all about “quotes”, my Chair says “no block quotes, the URR says “block quotes”. It took over one month for them to agree while my pocket was burning for additional tuition. I was getting more impatient just to present and defend my research. Throughout this entire experience, I found my positive self-talk helpful each time I found myself unmotivated to get going: “Just try to write, even if it is just for a few minutes.” So, that was what I did.

When I started my doctoral program, I was extremely excited but was also very intimidated. I felt intensely inferior to the other students because they all seemed smarter and better educated than I was. My insecurities and self-doubts were the driving forces that made me work harder. I probably studied twice as hard and wrote twice as long as everyone else. I worked harder and longer to compensate for my shortcomings.

I still remember how I struggled during my first course and how frustrating it was when I accidentally erased my paper and had to write another one. I will never forget my first research class (quantitative research) when I cried for two days, was up for almost 24 hours, because I was unable to complete the statistical assignments. Thank God for my daughter who encouraged me after reminding me that she that “although I am good at using the computer, I am not able to help you this time”. In addition, Youtube became my tutor and helped me to pass this class. My will and determination helped me to overcome my fear of failing.

Writing my dissertation has been the most demanding, exhausting, yet highly rewarding endeavor in my life. It was a long and arduous journey not just for me but also for my family who had supported me throughout the process. From my experience, it is easy to get lost along the way, procrastinate, and give in to distractions. But with perseverance and hard work, the finish line is attainable. As a second-generation immigrant in the United States, I am proud that I have gotten this far. Of course, there were many hardships and setbacks, but there were also many successes in my life. The little successes I had slowly built my confidence so that over time, I started to believe that I could dream big.

It is now May 2020, one year and one month since the conferral of my doctoral degree. It was a transformative process for me, a self-discovery experience of how much I could persevere to accomplish something I consider worthwhile. My graduation was a life-fulfilling moment for me—an accomplishment of a lifetime that I am so proud and grateful. The experience made me realize that I am more than I ever thought I was. It changed me. I came out stronger and better.

Although it was largely an intellectual endeavor, the physical endurance to multitask and the emotional resilience to persevere when life-changing events happen were critical elements that made my dream a reality. Because I overcame my fears and shortcomings, I came out more hopeful of what the future brings. The road to success is not easy to navigate, even for the most talented people. Would I have predicted that my life would turn out this way ten years after entering a building? My past is consequential to who I am today. To remember my humble beginnings is important to me. My roots made me who I am today.


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