If Not You, Then Who?
Friday, August 15, 2014 at 10:09AM
AVID Center in AVID Summer Institute, Professional Learning, Teacher Stories

Jonathan Petrick was the teacher speaker at this year’s Summer Institute in Sacramento, CA. Below is his speech as prepared. You can also watch his speech here!

I would like to extend gratitude to a few people: our past, current, and future military families; my mentor, Mark Collazos; sound advisors, Granger Ward and Bob Romano; Lauren Ramers for bridging financial equality between stateside and international staff developers; my mother and father, Pam and Jess; the Ramstein AVID site team; and all the students who have tolerated my persistence for excellence.

I am humbled by having the honor of being a teacher speaker here in Sacramento to share my personal journey of growth. As a representative of all things AVID, we are going to learn some foreign language and use callbacks, just like in the AVID classroom and in our strands.

So, when I say, “If not you…”
You’ll say, “Then who?”
Let’s practice…
Great, we rock!

Prior to my current position at Ramstein Air Base, I spent four years in prison: Giessen American Middle/High School in Germany. Originally being hired as a new reading specialist evolved into AVID mid-year. Thinking back to 2003, the only thing I knew about Germany were the antics that I had seen in the movie European Vacation: lederhosen, people named Dieter and Klaus, and driving fast on the Autobahn.

If you are not familiar with our Department of Defense schools in Europe, here’s your lesson: Giessen was one of four bases north of Frankfurt that comprised the US Armed Forces Europe ‘Ready First’ Armored Brigade, which would go on to serve in Iraq’s most deadly cities, Ramadi and Fallujah. The school itself had an enrollment of no more than 250 students at any time during my four years.

What would my new adventure bring in Europe? Three red flags cautioned me that the road ahead would be difficult. Flag one: A letter arrived thanking me for accepting the position prior to me actually being offered a position. Flag two: The school sent the only non-manual driving colleague to fetch me in a manual car from the airport. Now, Germany is known for their unbegrenzt zones—that means you can drive as fast as you want because the zone is unlimited; it is probably the only place in the world where it is considered normal to drive a family of four or five in a station wagon down the road at 130 mph plus. So, when a 40-mile trip took us 90 minutes, and we stayed in third gear the whole way, something was not right. Flag three: The advice from my principal on Day One of my new job, “Don’t hit your students, don’t date their mothers, and don’t show up drunk.” At 24, I didn’t know what to make of my first 48 hours. Then again, at 24, what’s the big deal? Later, I did find out that all of those pieces of advice had actually occurred during the semester prior to my arrival.

After my first semester, my assistant principal—who most students referred to as, “The Cowboy”—told me that I’d be teaching AVID, and I’d love it. Right now, many of you taking the Implementation strand are recalling a similar conversation that you had a few weeks ago with your administrator. My advice: “Don’t worry about it.” After all, why not dump the least suspecting teacher into a role that examines hordes of data and defines a process for recruiting new students and active and voluntarily participating site team members?

As my first year at GM/HS continued, I began to have more and more questions: How would I manage a lack of funding, weak administration, or complacent staff? While many in the school shrugged at my frustrations, it was the students who uncovered my sought answers. Through their gain in understanding the value of AVID—using inquiry to problem solve, keeping an organized agenda and binder, and collaborating with others—things started to click for me: Ask questions, collaborate, fail and go back to the drawing board, and always have fun. Twelve- to fourteen-year-olds unintentionally showing me AVID—with my commitment, these were students bound to succeed—jawohl!

There were many students who I have encountered during my decade with AVID, but only a few that stand out from my first experience with AVID at GM/HS. Assisting Nico with his AVID binder would result in his free translation of my German phone bills. Supporting Aris’ exploration of career fields led to home-cooked Turkish lunches and many cups of espresso during late-night conversations. I’d like to add that his career choices were not limited by his language fluency in Spanish, German, Farsi, Turkish, and English—and thanks for supporting me, Aris, who is here in the front row. There was Mandi telling me to “shake it off…” when I was annoyed at an administrative decision that negatively affected her schedule. Although, with her dad being deployed for the fourth time—or was it fifth?—in three years, a schedule seemed of little importance. Michael, who learned the hard way that Cornell notes were more effective than studying from memorization—it took two years, but he got it, mostly because he realized resistance in the AVID world is futile; it is not going to happen. And last, students like Jurado, who only agreed to do homework for his other teachers if I met him on Sundays for pizza; homework was forbidden! It seemed like a good deal for him, but I was trying to figure out what was in this for me?

As a committed educator with roadblocks, you may ask: What can AVID do for you? AVID will coach you to believe in your students, their futures, and reflect on why you do what you do, whether you’re an AVID coordinator, Elective teacher or site team member. Because of the now-adults named Nico, Aris, Mandi, Michael, and Jurado, I learned to not make excuses, to rise again after you fall, and to be confident with your decisions that will guide your students to college and beyond.

My time from 2003–2007 at Giessen became manageable with the help of these students, as well as that of others. …A time when 96 soldiers from our community were killed in action during a 10-month period. You heard that correctly, 96 deaths in a 10-month period, not counting the ones that made it home, maimed or psychologically scarred. To those students who often joked about my straightforward, drill-sergeant-like demeanor—they used other adjectives as well, none that I will repeat here—you are the ones who define Petrick’s Army.

As for Giessen, the school eventually closed; I haven’t purchased lederhosen, and I haven’t met Dieter, but in my 12 years, I have earned 17 speeding tickets and met a few men named Klaus.

So, when you feel overwhelmed with AVID, look to your students and their goals and remind yourself that, as a committed educator, you are the catalyst for the success of your students.
After all… “If not you…” “Then who?”

Vielen dank und bis bald.


For more on AVID, visit http://avid.org/what-is-avid.ashx.

Article originally appeared on AVID Adventures in College & Career Readiness (http://avidcollegeready.org/).
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