I am a reflective learner and strategic thinker. Education is important to me, as a student and as an instructor. It hasn’t always been that way. We learn from our experiences, which in turn shapes the perspective we present to our students. To know why I present much of what I do and how I help my students gain perspective, you first should understand the roots of my frame of reference. My ongoing education is so much more than books and classrooms. My personal educational experiences are challenging. Shall we say my background is varied. I’m not entirely sure from which class I hail, lower, middle upper, or any other label society has used. I am sure it doesn’t really matter; I am who I am today because of the past decisions I have made and others made for me.
“The un-examined life is not worth living.”― Socrates
I was adopted by the only parents I’ve ever known when I was seven weeks old. The only thing I know about my biological mother was she was single. I was born October 13, 1966 in Cook County General Hospital, Chicago, Illinois. I was “picked up” from the Cradle Society in Evanston on December 5th of that same year by Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Dold Jackson Sr. Adversity came at an early age when my parents divorced. My father eventually left the family when I was about 4 or 5 years old. He moved West to California and remarried.
When I was in 4th grade it was determined that I had some kind of learning disability or back then they didn't call it ADHD, I think it was hyperactivity. I was put behind a tri fold screen. Allegedly, its purpose was so that I wouldn't be distracted. I took care of that when I went to the Scholastic Book Fair and bought some posters and used them to decorate the inside of my screen in my fourth grade classroom. That drew a lot of attention, including the teacher's ire; she took the screen away.
When I was nine my father and his new wife sued my mother for custody. Though everyone advised against fighting it, my mother chose to; she never backed down from a fight; she had grit!
The custody suit was settled in my father's favor. For the next seven years I became a human ping pong ball, a zip code collector. I attended nine schools in three states over seven years from fifth grade through high school graduation. This taught me adaptability, flexibility and an affinity for networking and conversation.
When I arrived in California after the custody suit was settled in my father's favor, I began at the California Center for educational therapy . After a few visits it was determined that I did not have a learning disability;I was actually quite intelligent. Once I was given some strategies for reading and math my scores quickly went up. I had entered the educational center in 5th grade with approximately a 3.2 math level and a 2.7 reading level. When I left there at the end of the 6th grade I was doing math at the 7th grade level and actually reading at the 9th grade level.
It was about the same time that something went down, I can't quite remember what, I went from California back to my mother in Grosse Pointe. In the middle of my 7th grade year my mother decided to move from Grosse Pointe to Hilton Head, South Carolina. There I would finish 7th grade but not start eighth-grade. I ended up back in California with my father and stepmother.
Thus began my tour of CA boarding schools; Pasadena to Pebble Beach, then to a public junior high; three schools in 1 year. Times were not good: My father was drinking quite a bit and my stepmother left him. I ended up in Culver city with my sister and her boyfriend and another roommate. It wasn't pretty.
The following year may very well have been my best high school year. My stepmom and dad got back together. One of the conditions was that I would go back to boarding school. Another fall, another boarding school; this time in Ojai Valley. My father took out tuition Insurance, just in case. That 10th grade year I was captain of the JV soccer team played basketball, had a nice girlfriend, got good grades, made good friends. I returned for my junior year. The following year didn't go nearly as smoothly; my father started drinking again, my stepmother left him and I met a young lady I wish I never had. She and I were asked to leave the school after holiday break because our promiscuous behavior was too much for the gossip mill to handle.
So back to South Carolina I went. I did not pass go,I did not collect $200. I went directly from school to the airport. My things were shipped to me. It's the middle of my junior year February 1983; I was completely clueless, directionless, had really no idea what I was doing or how I should be doing it. I finished my junior year in such a state. That summer I met the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. She eventually became my wife, and she is still the most beautiful woman I know. She and I had an awfully fun senior year. We may have been out of school nearly as much as we were in school. I walked the stage with my class but did not receive my diploma until I completed summer school in 1984. Silly me, I thought the next logical step was college. Silly parents, so did they.
That was quite possibly the worst thing I could have done. In the one semester in college I had seen the inside of bars and parties more than I had seen classrooms or lecture Halls. I finished with a whopping 1.2 grade point average, a full point below my HS GPA. I started the second semester, still not knowing what I was doing or how I was doing it. But my girlfriend, who was to become my wife, “tattle tailed”. My parents pulled the financial plug and with it went all my fun. Just before the WF date I decided to drop out before I failed out.
I got home to my mother's on Hilton Head. She looked at me when I came through the door and said, “That is quite possibly the best move you've made. You have two weeks to find a job and an apartment and get out”. This was the best thing that ever happened to me.
For twenty months I supported myself working two jobs, a clothing salesman during the day and a waiter at night. I grew to realize that a college education was necessary if I wanted to achieve my goals. I returned to USC more mature and responsible and graduated Cum Laude. I later earned an MBA from Indiana University and went on to have a successful career in marketing management.
I’ve gained the perspective that a lot can be learned from life’s experiences, learning from mistakes, overcoming adversity and listening to sound advice from a variety of people. Much of the value that empowers me to play a positive role in making a difference in our emerging leaders’ efforts and perspectives is the varied life that I have lived and the lessons I have learned from my experiences. It is important to me that young learners are mindful of the life they are living and learn how to adapt, grow and thrive. We need to help students become lifelong learners, reflective learners, experiential learners pursuing a passion, not a test score.
I do the very best I know how-the very best I can;
and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.
- Abraham Lincoln
Author: Dan Jackson
Experienced Reflective Learner and Strategic Thinker with an ongoing track record of of innovative, adaptive leadership in education and business management.