What's your education story?

As a teenager she rarely went to school, but when she got pregnant everything changed

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Gayle Cosby

education_story_graphicChalkbeat journalists ask the people we come across in our work to tell us about their education stories and how learning shaped who they are today. Learn more about this series, and read other installments, here.

Gayle Cosby is a Indianapolis Public Schools board member, a former IPS special education teacher and a doctoral student in the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis graduate program in urban education studies.

I am a life-long Indianapolis resident, which means that I went to IPS starting in kindergarten and went completely through to the 12th grade. I was really fortunate to have really involved grandparents who thought that education was incredibly important.

I was living with my grandparents, but the summer between middle school and high school year, I was informed that I would be moving back in with my parents to live. It was totally against my wishes — it was not something that I wanted to do.

When I started at Broad Ripple High School in the ninth grade, home life was much different. There was a lot of instability. As a ninth grader at Broad Ripple, I kind of got in with a circle of friends that was not interested in attending class. We would just walk away from the school and go wherever it took us. It went on until I got picked up for truancy one day. It’s the only time I’ve been in the back of a police car.

I was at that time pregnant with my daughter Sierra.

My father came up to the school and informed the dean that I was pregnant. The dean said, ‘you can’t continue to go to Broad Ripple. There is a special school for pregnant girls over on Tech’s campus, and you are going to need to go there.’

I didn’t want to but I did transfer to (Arsenal Technical High School). Everyone there was in the same situation that I was in, so that made it incredibly easier to focus on my current situation and think about my future.

Sierra came in September of 1995. I was 15. I was very, very fortunate to be selected for a program called the Vivian Smith Teen Parenting Program. It was a home daycare exclusively for teen moms.

This was my typical day as a teen mom. You get up at probably around 4:30 a.m., get Sierra ready and get yourself ready. Because the Vivian Smith Teen Parenting Program sent a passenger van to your house to pick you and the baby up. They ran a route, picked up the rest of the girls and the babies and took us to the day care. Then they would feed us breakfast. (Then we) went out and caught the school bus to Tech. And then you do the reverse every day. That was my high school life.

(It was a) blessing in disguise — my daughter coming at the age of 15 is what kind of derailed me from the self-destructive path that I was on.

story slam

Tips for teaching poetry in a women’s prison: ‘Remember, you are not allowed to hug anyone’

PHOTO: Lwp Kommunikáció, Flickr CC
Inmates at the Indiana Women's Prison.

Editor’s note: This story was about a video taken at a story slam hosted by Chalkbeat, Teachers Lounge Indy, WFYI Public Media, and the Indianapolis Public Library. We removed the video at the request of the speaker, who was not authorized to speak publicly about his experience teaching in a women’s prison.

If you are looking for insights about what it’s like to teach poetry in a women’s prison, try this Rumpus piece or this interview with a 20-year veteran of prison schools. You can find more stories from Indianapolis educators, students, and parents here.

It's Friday. Just show a video.

How a push to save some of Indiana’s oldest trees taught this class about the power of speaking out

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Students working at the School for Community Learning, a progressive Indianapolis private school that depends on vouchers.

Alayna Pierce was one of seven teachers who participated in story slam sponsored by Chalkbeat, Teachers Lounge Indy, WFYI Public Media and the Indianapolis Public Library on Sept. 5. Every teacher shared stories about their challenges and triumphs in Circle City classrooms.

Pierce’s story is a letter she wrote to her second and third grade students at the School for Community Learning, a private school in Indianapolis. In it, she recounts how they came together as a class and as a community to save some of the state’s oldest trees.

Check out the video below to hear Pierce’s story.

You can find more stories from educators, students and parents here.