The New Normal

Sam Lurie | St. Louis ‘08

“On the count of three, I want you to say ‘the new normal.’  1…2…3…”  ET The Hip Hop Preacher directed our Vashon student body.

“The New Normal” echoed the students in the auditorium on Friday morning.

Last week, the students of Vashon High School had the privilege to hear renown speaker, educator, author, activist, and minister, Eric Thomas, deliver a high-energy message to the entire student body about breaking the cycles of crime, hopelessness, and despair that our students may face daily.

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Eric Thomas otherwise known as ET The Hip Hop Preacher, is internationally known as a high school dropout from Detroit, MI who turned his life around and earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and soon to be PhD while becoming a well known motivational speaker.

ET told captivating stories of how he created a new normal in his family by becoming the first in his family to achieve several goals that nobody had ever achieved; starting with being a positive and active father for his kids. ET ate out of garbage cans and was kicked out of school when he was a teen while just last year, his son was deciding whether he wanted to attend USC because Reggie Bush went there or Michigan State because his father went there. This is a new normal. He told our students that his son has never had to fight before, instead him and his friends take their issues to the golf course. This is a new normal. ET isn’t a high school dropout anymore; he is a college graduate and author. This is a new normal.

ET challenged our students to “Get off that low hanging fruit. It’s easy to get a C, get off that B, a lot of people can get a B. Graduate valedictorian, go to Harvard, I DARE you to go to Harvard in this room.  I DARE you to go to Princeton. I DARE you to do something your Daddy never did. I DARE you to do something your Mama never did.”

After discussing ET’s speech with my students, they were in complete awe of him and these were the main points they took away:

1.)   Started from the Bottom, I can do it!: After hearing ET speak about how he overcame several situations, many of my students stated that for the first time they felt like despite different circumstances they may come from, they can achieve their dreams with hard work and dedication just like ET did.

2.)   Sometimes in life, you have to do what you hate to do, so you can live like you want to live: ET described how he didn’t like school and that is one of the reasons he dropped out but eventually he realized that he had to engage himself in school so that he could live the way he wanted to. It took him 12 years to complete a 4-year degree but he never gave up on his dreams.

3.)   Give 120%: When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, that is when you will be successful. Achieving the “New Normal” will not be easy, you will have to give up sleep and give 120% effort every single day. You will have to work extremely hard and you will have to surround yourself with people who want it just as bad as you do.

4.)   Knowledge is the New Money: When ET started speaking, people would pay him whatever they wanted to pay him. Once he earned his bachelor’s degree, he could start to negotiate how much they paid him. Once he earned his mater’s degree, he could set the price and once he became published, he could raise the price even higher.

I encourage anyone out there who works with students to show your students ET’s videos and to have a discussion with them about their thoughts of creating a “New Normal”.  As many of us teachers are closing down the school year and will begin a reflection process of the year, I challenge you to design what you want the “New Normal” to look like in your classroom next year and how you will make it happen.

Samantha Lurie is a special education biology teacher at Vashon High School. She is a 2008 corps member and is currently a Teach For America Alumni School Captain.

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