If you’ve ever teetered in the moment between success and failure—maybe you’re there now; the point you’ve failed a critical test in your course and it seems more appealing to quit than keep going, Erin Bishop, recent WGU graduate, has a story for you.
She’s been in that moment more than once, and now, as the behavior specialist at Utah’s Weber School District, she helps the most challenged elementary school students work through it every day, too. As a matter of fact, she had to learn how to push through failure to work with them, since at the eleventh hour of finishing her Master of Education in Instructional Design, she failed the test which would allow her to graduate and work with these kids.
“I am the queen of self-doubt,” said Bishop, who received her degree last summer. “And it’s something I still work through every day.” So how did she move past failure the day she failed her fourth term and graduate after all? This well-timed advice made all the difference:
“You are the first degree recipient, the only one in your family, and you’re not just doing this for yourself. You’re doing it for them so they will have a different future than what you had as a kid.”
It was actually Bishop’s own words that she wrote down at the beginning of her degree two years prior. She sent the message to her WGU Student Mentor, Mineta Wilde, to save for the day Bishop was ready to give up.
“I ask all of my new students to write down a message about why they’re pursing their degree to remind them later when things get really hard because it happens to everyone at some point– the day comes they hit a wall and want to quit,” said Wilde. “They feel like giving up because this isn’t an easy thing to do and that’s when I remind them of their vision.”
Almost a School Dropout
For Bishop, she envisioned a life for her two children that was better than the one she grew up with. Not only did she nearly drop out of college, but high school too, as a pregnant teen juggling her personal issues with taking care of her younger siblings in a home environment plagued with addiction.
“Schooling was not on the forefront,” said Bishop. “My parents didn’t even know who my teachers were.”
The turning point in high school for Bishop was when her teacher, Mr. Jones, saw potential in Bishop that she didn’t, and expanded his role from classroom instructor to mentor. He helped Bishop see her own worth and strengths.
“Whenever I didn’t show up at school, he persisted at getting me back there,” Bishop said.
After going to college and graduating early with a Bachelor’s degree, Bishop decided it was time to give back.
“I decided I wanted to be a teacher like Mr. Jones,” she said. “I had no other adult to lead the way, but he made the difference in me graduating from high school and going to college. I knew now that I could do the same for others.”
Now, Bishop has a rewarding career and lifestyle for her family. She travels throughout Utah’s elementary schools making IEP plans to help kids stay in school.
“It’s interesting to go in and find these kid’s triggers – I’m good at that from my own upbringing,” she said. “I was that child at one time.”
Last year, Bishop received another opportunity to pass the test she failed, finish her Master’s degree and was selected to speak to her graduating class at the summer commencements in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mr. Jones and Wilde were in the audience for that, and saw her walk for her degree.
“I was proud of her,” recalls Wilde. “It wasn’t easy, we both had a job to do and we both did it.”
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And Mr. Jones texted Bishop from the floor after she received her diploma with the same encouraging words he’d given her many years ago: “Can’t tell you how proud I am of you. You knocked it out of the park. HOME RUN.”
“I think you can take any situation and let it deter you or let it drive you,” said Bishop. “But if you think about your long term goals and not let self-doubt get in the way, you will be so proud of what you’ve overcome.”
It’s another message Bishop wants to remember in the days ahead.