Today I’m re-blogging. (Who knew that I could do such a thing, or that the word existed?) Here’s a piece from the Florida Literacy Coalition’s Blog, by Armando J. Gutierrez, Ed.D., which appeared today. I think it speaks for itself.
You watched me come to your class just like any other student. You greeted me with a warm smile and caring eyes. You asked me to have a seat in your inviting classroom. I watched you speak words I didn’t understand. I watched as the other students raised their hands to question your words. I sat in the cold seat as the minutes went by like hours. I heard you call my name, and I waited for you to ask me, who I was.
You don’t know the painstaking ordeal it took for me to get here this morning. You don’t know how it feels to wake up in the dark or the fear in my heart when I have to wait for the bus. You don’t know that I have no umbrella, or why my clothes are wet and unkempt when I enter your class. You think I can’t…
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I recently had a conversation with a student about his reoccurring absences. The 18 year old Hispanic male who first left school in 8th grade said he had to miss classes because he had to find a job to help with the family finances. The reason, he explained with eyes gazing down, was because his family got evicted from their home.
As a school administrator for the past 16 years, I have heard a myriad of reasons why employees, teachers and staff, cannot to come to work. In these tough economic times where individuals with post secondary credentials have difficulty sustaining and finding employment, I cannot imagine what it would be like without at least a High School diploma these days, seeking employment, housing, food for my family.
As an adult with years of wisdom, with a support system in place for years, I would be mentally, physically, emotionally drained having to deal with an eviction or some of the hardships our students deal with daily. I lean on these support systems for advise, for friendships, and guidance in times of need. I often ask myself how I could continue my “life” if I had to deal with their reality.
Let me ask you two question, Could you deal with some of the issues your GED students are facing each day? And if you were, would you not want a caring ear to listen to you?
Boy, I read back what I said before on this post. I sounded really selfish, didn’t I?
It’s sometimes harder to get my younger inmates to class. Not only do they have the language and/or disability shame, they’ve got the adolescent need to look tougher, especially in front of the older guys. It’s a survival thing for them that’s different from the regular jail dynamic. They have different needs, and they are very hot and cold about education. You can make the class feel safe for them, talk about why school is so hard, encourage them, let them direct what they want to learn, show tough or general “love” (gotta watch how I use that word…I’m talking agape here) but one day they might show, the next not. A lot of it depends on how they’re feeling.
When I get these 18 and 19 year-olds in class and I see when their birthdays were in relationship to how long they’ve been in my class, it says something to me inside, something different than what I hear (in my mind and heart) from my older guys. The “What if…?” question comes to mind, but it’s got a different tone. “What if one thing in their life was different earlier on? Just that one thing, maybe even a year ago?” I have to believe it’s never to late to help people get that one thing that will help get them going in the right direction.
Thanks for sending this out. It was very moving. Reminds me that these words apply to many encounters in our lives and sometimes I need to be reminded.
Exactly my feelings when I saw it on the Florida Literacy Coalition blog. Sometimes I need to be reminded.
Conversely, students don’t know us, either, and what it takes for us to do what we do. I’m really struggling with this.
I don’t think we need to know the details of students’ lives. But this piece reminds me that every class has students in it who get to class in spite of great obstacles. It reminds me to check my assumptions: if a student comes late, or with dirty clothes, I shouldn’t conclude that he isn’t “committed”; if she doesn’t volunteer answers, I shouldn’t assume that she isn’t paying attention. For sure I shouldn’t be eating in front of people who may be hungry.
I agree–we don’t need to know the details of our students’ lives. I certainly do not WANT to know. I’ve said before, I don’t want to be a counselor. Conversely, they don’t need to know the details of our lives. What brought us to this field typically isn’t something they need to consider in addition to their own problems. Yesterday was just a really hard day for me. Clearly, I needed a mental health break, which I took. Thanks for everything, Kate. 🙂