Road less traveled!
As you know, the theme of this week is to meet different mothers who have significantly made a difference with their “unique” personalities. Every child is unique and so is every mother. Sudha Krishnan, is one such mother of two, a daunting wife, a beautiful daughter and an award winning kind teacher. She has been working towards her goal( no not money minting process) steadily through her life. Here is what she has to say! You will get inspired, definitely. I ask her and many others on Sunday evening (I.S.T) about the interview. And with the shortest turn around time she is here with her deep and meaningful answers. Probably this is how the “First Ones” always work.
1) Sudha,please let us about yourself and what do you do? About your career, kids, family life and “the school life”! What is your educational background? Your career journey!
I am mother of two wonderful children, one with autism and a wife to a wonderful, loving husband. I work as a lecturer at San Jose State University, instructing pre-service teachers in the teacher credential program for students with extensive support needs at school. Until recently I also worked as a teacher in a special day class at a public middle school in a class with students with moderate to severe disabilities.
Back to school!
I started out as an economist wanting to get my doctoral degree in economics, but was sidetracked by life (marriage, kids). After my second son was diagnosed with autism, I became interested in special education and working with children with disabilities. I became a teacher in our neighborhood public school and have worked there for about 20 years. Along the way, I was invited by San Jose State University to teach a class for their credential program for teachers. While teaching the would-be teachers, I was inspired to get my doctoral degree in special education- and that’s what I did!
2)Wow! That is quiet interesting work path! It is known that you were outstanding in academics! What were your dreams then? Are they realized now? At what age did things change for you? What made you take this road which won’t be taken by any other academically strong person(given the current trend is to be an engineer/doctor or mint money)!
I was a good student at school and college, but I never had strong career aspirations or dreams. I always wanted to work in a service related field. When I look back, I realize that even when I was young, I was fascinated in working with the marginalized sections of the community, or standing up in my own way for whatever I perceived to be injustice or inequity. So, I went through many phases like many other teenagers, seeking ideologies that would help me explain what I was seeing around me. It started out as social service, helping teach street children when I was at school, visiting polio affected children when I was in college, wanting to work in villages and tribal areas and so on. However, for a brief time, when I became interested in studying more, I decided to pursue economics, especially developmental economics. As I said before, I got sidetracked and years after a marriage and two children, I found myself working as an economist in the United States. Not really happy with my job, not inspired by it.
College at 35!
After my son Santosh was diagnosed with autism, I got immersed in how children learn and when an opportunity came up I decided to join as a special education teacher. The day I walked into the classroom, I knew I found my vocation. I remember thinking… I will not leave this place. This is what I have always wanted to do, and when your passion and work align, something clicks. I was never into making money, I had a fairly privileged childhood and don’t really attach too much importance to wealth. I have to love what I do, feel it in my guts that I am making a difference and be true to myself. This, I get from my work. I had to go back to school again at 35 to get a teacher’s credential and struggle with time management since I had two kids to look after now, but I wanted to do it from the bottom of my heart.
3) What is your passion and what is your goal/vision further? What is that you are still working at this age? Are you satisfied with your journey? How did you balance your work life? What were the challenges?
My journey into the world of disabilities has been a fascinating one. What started out as wanting to help people with disabilities, has turned into a quest to be their ally at best and advocate for them by helping to get their voice heard. As I spoke to and heard many people with disabilities, in my classroom and other adults, I see how patronizing people can be when they feel that they somehow have the capacity to “help” others. That is also one way they may feel superior to others. I started to move away from the “charity” ideas and move toward empowerment of my students. I wanted their voice to be heard and their presence to be established in the school and community.
The fight with Autism
Personally, I also want to advocate for my son, who is minimally verbal, to get his voice heard and feelings noted without being told that he is somehow less than others for what he is experiencing as an adult with autism.
Doctoral at 50!
I guess I will never be done with my work. At 50, I decided to get my doctoral degree in special education, so that I can teach at the university full time. I want to keep exploring, studying, and working in this field. I thrill when I see my son or my students succeed at their work, and I rejoice every time the pre-service teachers at the university talk about advocating for their students. That is my goal/vision, helping schools provide an equitable, quality education for all students regardless of their skill level.
I feel the biggest challenge in my life was finding time to do everything I wanted. I had to really manage my time well, cut out all the unnecessary distractions, and focus on the job at hand. My father has always been an inspiration to me because of his work ethic and attitude. He has always encouraged me to meet all challenges head on. Because of the time constraints, I learned to become efficient at both the work at home and work at school, however, for a long time I did not worry about taking care of myself or my health. Now, I have added that to the equation too.
It is impossible to balance work and life and family and friends and everything you want to do, but maybe there are stages in life when one is more important than the other like when the kids are young, family is more important and maybe as they become more independent, work becomes more important and so on. But you always need crutches during hard times, and Prakash, my husband has been a great partner and we have always shared all work at home, so that has been a big blessing. Also, for me along my journey, my friends played a big role in helping me keep my sanity even when things were really crazy in my life.
4) And what made you move your cheese? How did you overcome the obstacles,if there were any! I am sure, there would have been many! What is the key to your success? What is that which keeps you at it, doing your bit consistently!
I get my juice from my work, so no matter what obstacles there are at work, I enjoy working through them. I think there are obstacles in everyone’s work and life some created by themselves and some by others. If you get stopped by obstacles, you cannot go far, you always have to believe that things will work out and continue finding ways to get around issues. If you really want to do something, I believe that you will find a solution to problems. One of the things I have learned in life is to trust my judgement and not pay attention to naysayers. Let others talk trash about you, you continue to do what you want to do.
5) What would you advice new mothers who find it very difficult to give up on their dreams immediately after the birth of a child? What is that parenting advice you would give, as you are one of the most loving personality to the budding mothers?
I think that having children and being with them was the most important and satisfying part of my life. I still treasure the memories of the days I spent with my babies and holding them, rocking them and loving them. I would not trade any work or any achievement for those moments. My advice to new mothers is that your life is long, a few years spent with your child will not end your dreams, in fact it may lead you on the path to new and better dreams. Also, to those mothers who have a child with a disability I urge you to think of yourself not as an unfortunate mother but as an advocate for your children and get their voice heard in society.
6) Indians need teachers like you! Any plans to come back to India or contribute to the Indian society with respect to the work you are doing!
I enjoy my work here and my family is happy in the United States. I am thinking of ways I can be useful to the school systems in India, but so far have not come across any thing that excites me.
Life is Beautiful by Roberto Benigni
8)Your favourite food?
Chaat- especially pani puri
9)Your favourite book?
Old Path White Clouds- Thich Nath Hahn
10)And your favourite song?
Abhi na jan chodkar- Rafi
And she leaves her message very clearly. I thank her once again and get back to meditate on her interview.