Then There Was The Time I Learned What

THEN THERE WAS THE TIME I LEARNED WHAT

Going into 8th grade was incredibly anxiety-inducing.

It was anxiety-inducing because of the general anxiety that 8th grade brings and because I had Mrs. Mackoviak as a teacher.

There were stories.

More like urban legends.

This woman was not to be messed with.

And I remember the day I found out what that meant. Yes, she was a teacher with high academic and behavioral expectations. But this woman showed she was not to be messed with in other ways.

It was about this time of the year, and we had an entire unit dedicated to the United Farm Workers movement. We learned all about Cesar Chavez in your textbook, articles, and a short documentary.

Then, Mrs. Mackoviak brought in a projector and a slide show… like an old-school one. If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, you know.

She started filling through slides of Cesar Chavez from newspapers in the day and other documentation of his journey.

Then, the slide show got different. The photos became a lot more candid. These were Polaroids rather than the photos you would see in a newspaper.

She quickly flashed a picture of Cesar laughing. It was an honest laugh as if he had just heard something funny. He was standing between two women who were holding clipboards and documents. Both were also laughing.

The picture left as fast as it came, but one observant student (not me; I wish I was that observant) shouted: WAIT!

Now, remember, Mrs. Mackoviak is not to be messed with. You do not shout in her class, and you certainly do not tell her what to do. She was as surprised as the rest of the class because she let the student continue.

The student requested that she go back to the previous slide, the one with Cesar between the two women, all of them laughing. Then this student stood up, pointed to the woman to the left of Cesar and said:

“MRS. MACKOVIAK – THAT’S YOU! THAT’S YOU NEXT TO CESAR CHAVEZ?!?!”

It was.

She then gave us a different lesson. She taught us through her eyes. She taught us of the horrific conditions, the ridiculous roadblocks, the racism, prejudice, name-calling, betrayal, and so much more they had to go through, all to pave the way for others to have a better life.

Mrs. Mackoviak had seen it all, endured it all, and helped transform lives despite it all.

Like I said, she was not to be messed with.

So often, we think of injustice as “over there,” but then it hits home much closer than we think. And that’s terrifying because if it is that close, it impacts people we love.

And, again, celebrating a culture often means learning the obstacles that culture has experienced and still experiences. It takes guts to share who you are and what you believe in.

Sometimes, I get upset when I see someone physically react to me when I mention that I am an immigrant to the country. I have had people walk out as soon as they find that out.

Then I think of Mrs. Mackoviak and Cesar Chavez, who had to endure much harsher conditions. I think of the progress they made for farmworkers, immigrants, and Latinos in the United States.

And I remember that it is only by continuing to share my story and encourage stories like mine to be told that we get to a point where all stories can be spoken up and heard.

On that, like always….

KEEP SPEAKING UP YOUR STORY, 

ENCORE: MORE TO EXPLORE

A SPEAKER’S INTEGRITY AS THE FOUNDATION FOR CONFIDENCE

Speakers must care about their off-stage presence as much as their on-stage performance. In this video, I address three key elements of a speaker’s off-stage presence. Click on the button below to learn more!

ARE YOU THE SAME ON STAGE AS YOU ARE OFF STAGE?

Confidence comes from being able to respond to your environment. However, if we are not being honest with ourselves and with others, it is nearly impossible to have confidence and to lead others, especially as a professional public speaker. Click the link below to learn more!