Not Bad for a C Student
| This is the 583rd story of Our Life Logs® |
1 | King of Louisiana
I arrived on this globe of chaos and wonder in the late fall of 1960. I was the fifth and last child of Charlie and Lila Holiday. At the time of my birth, Dad was in the seventh year of his eight-year service in the United States Air Force. We moved back to my Dad and Mom’s hometown of Kentwood, Louisiana, shortly after Dad’s military service ended in 1961, so I have no real memories of living in my birthplace, Mountain Home, Idaho.
We weren’t in the city long before my father enrolled in Southern University, a historically black university located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Since it took about five and a half years for Dad to finish his college education, my earliest childhood memories are of the old Southern University military-style dorms, affectionately referred to as the “wooden projects.” We lived in those old dorms. Our unit had eight bedrooms, two kitchens, two full bathrooms, and a water cooler. The latter was my favorite feature. I thought we were living a life of luxury!
I was surrounded by intellectuals in my early years. Dad would bring his professors, fellow students, and even the deans of his degree program home to meet his family. When I was about five years old, a member of the Southern University faculty, whom Dad called “Coach Mack,” gave me my first Latin lesson at one of these “get-togethers.” I was playing with my metal toy truck when he approached.
“Do you know what ‘Rex’ means?” Coach Mack asked in a tone that demanded an answer.
With all of the confidence that a five-year-old could manage, I replied “Yes, it means ‘dog.’”
Confident that my surprisingly accurate answer was the reason for his sudden silence, I went back to playing with my truck.
The abruptness of Coach Mack’s objection caused me to stumble over the top of my truck. When I looked up at him he looked absolutely horrified.
“No one has ever told you that your name means ‘king’?”
Uh, come again?
I completely forgot about my truck and gave Coach Mack my full and undivided attention. He proceeded to explain to me that the name “Rex” is the Latin word for “king.”
“Don’t you ever forget that.”
I never have.
• • •
Despite being surrounded by all those intellectuals, I was barely a C-average student in my first three years of elementary. More than once I was disciplined for disrupting a class (and the very next day I would be at it again). I’m part of a generation that came before the diagnosing of attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrums, so there wasn’t a whole lot for my parents and teachers to reference. In fact, to this day, I have never been diagnosed with any of those conditions. So, what was the problem? Why did I find it so difficult to focus?
2 | “You’ll Amount to Nothing at All in Life”
A year after my father graduated from Southern University, we moved from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to East Palo Alto, California, where Dad had accepted a teaching job at Ravenswood High School for the 1969-1970 school year. I experienced culture shock more than my siblings because I was the only one with a Louisiana southern accent and an affinity for cowboy boots and cowboy hats. Both of those attributes would lead to relentless bullying that almost always ended in a playground beating by some held-back post-pubescent kid with anger-management issues. Of course, my speech impediment, extremely small body frame, and bald head when most other kids were wearing Afros, didn’t help.
I was in remedial classes for math and reading from fourth to seventh grade. The bad grades and bullying continued until something very unexpected happened in the eighth grade. I was placed in a small remedial group where we spent most of our time doing art projects and taking field trips in the teacher’s station wagon (yes, it was a different place and time). My attention deficit was at its apex and my school teacher father was about at his wits’ end for my failing grades and my apathetic attitude. The proverbial straw and camel’s back came one day when I was particularly unruly and disruptive in Mrs. Johnson’s English Language Arts class.
I had been joking with one of my classmates during a language arts lesson, when Mrs. Johnson walked over to me and said, “All you do is fool around here. Isn’t your father a teacher? Would you behave like this in his class?” Mrs. Johnson considered me for a minute and then said, “You’ll amount to nothing at all in life.”
Say what now? That blistering condemnation simply stunned me.
Yes, I was being a class clown and distracting my classmates from learning, but that was the harshest thing any teacher had ever said to me. She sent me to the office where I was severely scolded by the principal until my next class period started. I was relieved they hadn’t called my parents…or so I thought. The next day, I sat in class while trying to give Mrs. Johnson the harshest stare I could manage.
Suddenly, the classroom door opened and there was my dad standing with the principal and the Advanced Language Arts teacher, Mrs. Rehm. My heart sank to my stomach and a lump came up to my throat. Well, this can’t be good.
Mrs. Johnson looked as surprised as I was to see that trio standing in her doorway. Dad pointed to me while addressing Mrs. Johnson.
“We’ll be taking him with us.”
Mrs. Johnson just nodded in agreement, probably happy to see me go. What is this all about? And Why is Dad with Mrs. Rhem?
Mrs. Rhem taught the advanced Language Arts and Reading class. Everyone knew that she only taught the smart students.
“This is your class now,” was all Dad said before turning and leaving.
It was difficult at first, but being around kids who were serious about school brought about a motivation in me that I didn’t realize I had.
3 | Every Moment is a Teaching Moment
As a teacher, my father believed that any moment spent without teaching or learning was time wasted. After successfully executing Operation: Get Rex Out of His Academic Comfort Zone, Dad continued to find creative ways to teach me. I remember in eighth grade, my father made my friend and I believe we were going on a fishing trip on a school day. Instead, he took us to the high school where he taught.
“I want you to see my class,” he said.
My friend and I reluctantly followed. That day, Dad absolutely humiliated us in front of his class by asking us to solve math problems that he knew we could not solve. When we were in the car on the way back home, my friend and I were both silently fuming over my father’s prank. Unable to keep my anger inside, I suddenly burst out, “Why did you bring us there to embarrass us like that in front of your class? You know we don’t know high school math. We’re still in junior high school!”
Dad calmly put the car in reverse and pulled out of the parking spot, as I sat there waiting for his reply. He finally turned to me.
“That was my remedial math class. You should have learned that math in sixth grade. I blame myself for letting that slip by, but right now, you’re not even ready for remedial high school math.”
My friend and I were immediately humbled, and we never said a word about that false fishing trip again. In time, real fishing trips did happen but they were always filled with antics to teach me something, whether it was existential or practical (like how to make a fishing lure out of a rock or the lining of a cigarette package). It worked for a while. I made the honor roll in my freshman year of high school. Unfortunately, that would be short-lived.
• • •
In the Spring of 1976, Dad died. It was my sophomore year of high school, and we had moved to Milpitas, California, by then. My grades had slipped considerably after moving to Milpitas and even more so after Dad’s death. Maybe he was looking down on me, disapprovingly, while I put off my studies, but I couldn’t help it. After losing my most loyal teacher, I barely scraped by. Despite my low GPA, however, I managed to get accepted into college.
I ran into financial issues and had to transfer colleges a few times, and my grades continued to suffer until I reluctantly took the advice of a chemistry professor. They suggested I change my major. The following semester, I transferred to Evergreen Valley College, a two-year college, and changed my major from biology to mass communications. While at Evergreen, I made the Dean’s Honor Roll and then later the President’s Honor Roll for a perfect GPA. I graduated in 1981 with an Associate in Arts Degree, happy with my progress.
I’d like to think Dad was happy too.
4 | The Ups and Downs of Higher Education
My Bachelor of Arts degree took 22 years to complete. I was working full time, ￼married with five children, and commuting six hours a day for most of my college education. My wife refers to those as her “college widow years,” and my children recall how there were movies and television series that aired during that time that I had never seen.
I completed my undergraduate degree at California State University Stanislaus in 2003. The main campus was located in Turlock, California, but due to my schedule, I strategically arranged to have my classes at the satellite campus located in Stockton, California. Most of my courses were over closed-circuit television, for one of my final courses, I was the only student at the satellite campus. I continued on to graduate school in the Fall of 2003.
I completed my Master of Arts at Sacramento State University in May of 2007 and was enrolled in my doctoral program in the Fall of 2008 at Trident University International. I barely squeaked by with a 3.3 GPA to be admitted into the educational leadership and e-learning leadership program, but successfully defended my dissertation in June 2015. I completed all of my doctoral work earning no graded lower than an A-, which brought my cumulative GPA up to 3.83.
That’s a lot of words to say that it took the willpower of an army to be able to put some fancy, well-earned letters next to my name.
5 | Where I Landed
During my doctoral program and under the urging of a good friend, I occupied an uncontested school board trustee seat for the Manteca Unified School District from 2008 to 2012. After that, I continued to insert myself into the engineering curriculum at my job and was accepted as a reviewer for the National Science Foundation. In December of 2017, I was enlisted in making the transition from wireless telecommunications equipment engineering to the field of e-learning and instructional design. At the end of 2018, I published a book on education with my late friend and mentor, Steve Sonntag.
In Fall 2020, I designed and taught my first university course. To date, I have taught at two institutions of higher education, with a pending appointment at a third university. I have been a professor of instructional design, intercultural communication, and English composition.
Not bad for a kid that was supposed to “amount to nothing in life.”
Dr. Holiday's doctoral diploma.
This is the story of Dr. Rex Holiday
Dr. Holiday has four college degrees and has had the unique opportunity to work professionally in all his degree majors. As a kid, Dr. Holiday could have let the words “You will amount to nothing at all in life” mold him into their sum, but he chose to use them as inspiration to reach his potential. His AA is in mass communications with an emphasis in journalism, and he briefly worked as the editor-in-chief for a small local magazine. His BA degree is in organizational communications, and he has taught intercultural communications at the community college level. His MA degree is in English with a Creative Writing emphasis. He works as a freelance writer for two writing companies, and his Ph.D. is in educational leadership and e-learning leadership. Dr. Holiday was invited to be a guest committee member of the quantitative reasoning assessment committee at a private university from Fall 2017 to Spring 2018. He has also been a senior manager of education and training, as well as an instructional designer for an e-learning company.
This story first touched our hearts on March 18, 2021.
Writer: Rex Holiday | Editor: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker