My father immigrated to the United States to seek a better life. He was a pioneer in his family, and helped bring a brother and sister of his to the US a few years later. Back home in Egypt he was a respected engineer with a profitable business of his own, who also taught engineering courses at the local University. That was until a local politician wanted his business for his son, and took it from my father. My Egyptian family are Coptic Christians, and in those days and unfortunately sometimes today, that meant reduced rights.
My father loved to tell the story of how the day he arrived in America with 2 of his friends, they hailed a taxi and spent forever placing all their worldly possessions in the trunk of the cab. The cab driver had been very frustrated with the amount of bags the 3 of them had. When they finally loaded the cab up, the driver asked them where they were headed. The replied with “YMCA” and the cab driver started to swear…. the YMCA was right across the street.
It was a humorous start to his beginnings in the US.
Even though he was an engineer back in Egypt, like most immigrants his credentials were not valid in the US. My father did not give up though. Instead, he went back to school and received a new Masters degree in engineering from Rutgers University in New Jersey. Eventually he found himself working in Connecticut at a company that made tachometers. That is were he met and married my mother. Shortly after that he began a PhD program at Columbia University. He didn’t finish that degree though, because I was born.
I remember when I was about 10 years old, asking my father why he went through all the trouble of going back to school, when he already was an engineer. He went to his office an got out his diploma. He showed it to me and said his father had always told him, that education is the one thing no one can ever take from you. He said he already was an engineer, but he had to go to school again to prove it. Any time I complained about my school work he reminded me, that when you learn can never be taken from you.
When I married, I chose a man who was a lot like my father (totally stereotypical thing to do I know). When we met he was in college at a University near me, and because we married and moved, he didn’t finish school at the University of Connecticut until my Eldest son was 4 years old. My children and I would often accompany him to the school for classes, and we spent time walking around campus and talking about how they were going to need to go to a college like this one some day. My son asked me why his Daddy was going to school when he was a grown up. I told him that you go to school as long as you need and it is never a waste, because it is the one thing no one can ever take away from you.
My son is finishing 4th grade this week, and he and his sister know that the school work is not over for them. Every summer, my children spend 4 hours a day in homeschool with me. They complain sometimes, but they know what we will tell them.
I am thankful to my father for that lesson. I think it adds to why I am a teacher. What we teach a child, can never be taken from them, it is a permanent impression on who they are and who they will become. I learned that from my father, my children are learning that from their father, and someday, I hope when my boys are fathers they will keep passing the lesson on.
What you learn can never be taken from you by anyone….. you just might have to prove you know it to them again.
This father’s day I plan to discuss with my children to talk about what their father says or does that makes them want to be just like him. I plan to make a video, or a photoshop collage of the things they say. If you would like to make a collage with your children or students about their father, or significant role model in their lives, wordle is a great and fun resource.
To all the fathers out there whose daily words and actions shape who the next generation will grow up to be,
Happy Father’s Day!
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