You are always wondering what my job is and what I do for work. A while back I worked with a group of adults in a research project who listed all their needs before they could return to regular school. It was a huge list. What I do is try to support the programs that offer learning to these adults.
Today I am in a swank hotel in Vancouver, surrounded by glitz, food and chocolate, talking about Literacy.
What Is wrong with this picture?
Dee’s question, “What’s wrong with this picture?” is always hanging around adult literacy, adult basic education, adult ESOL and GED programs, waiting to be answered. Sometimes the question is hidden away somewhere and never looked at. Sometimes it whispers from the corners of discussions about student motivation or retention. Occasionally someone like Dee asks it right out loud.
But whether silent, whispered, or shouted, the question lives with everyone who teaches in our field. If there was an easy answer, the question would have disappeared long ago.
The teacher has a job and teaches those who for whom regular, well-paying work is at best a dream for the future.
The teacher has a home and teaches those who are homeless, or couch-surfing, or whose homes are overcrowded and often come with rats and rotten plumbing.
The teacher eats three meals a day and teaches those who come to school without breakfast, who skip lunch so that their kids can eat, who have to miss class to stand in line at foodbanks and welfare offices.
Both teachers and students live with violence and the threat of violence, but it seems the teacher has more options…
Teachers, of course, are not all in the same boat. The teacher with a college salary and a union teaches across the hall from a volunteer tutor who works for nothing. Down the street someone is teaching at a community program for half the salary and no benefits. Hardly anyone has job security, and there are always cutbacks. Some of us have “McJobs” to support our teaching habits.
However, no matter how leaky our boat may be, it is nearly always better than the boats our students are in. Figuring out what to do with that difference is part of our daily reality. Dee’s question asks itself every day.
This postcard is one of a series produced at “So What? Reflections on Research in Practice,” a RiPAL-BC Gathering held in Vancouver, 2008. Its purpose was to reflect on the impact of research in practice in adult literacy (RiPAL) on the field, on practitioners’ work, and on learners’ experiences.
Here are some American stats on the differences I’m talking about: By the Numbers