Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Adult Education...It Can Change a Life

Hello everyone out there in the Land of Blogs. I'm packing. Tomorrow morning I will pick up my three colleagues, and we will head to our annual literacy conference. We will stay at a really nice hotel, eat good food, hook up with old friends and, hopefully, learn something new to pass on to our students. I teach in the land of the GED and English as a Second Language.

I'm into my 20th year of teaching adults who fell through the cracks of our educational system. I was a public school teacher at one time many years ago. I loved my students, 8th graders, ready for the world, just a few years away from adulthood, but still such children. The boys voices went from a high octave to a low octave in a matter of seconds. Most were shorter than many of the girls. They hadn't quite reached the gangly stage. The girls were losing their baby fat and getting slender, figures becoming more womanly. But, lord have mercy, they were a giggly lot. I know, I was 14 at one time, and EVERYTHING was funny. My original babies (as I like to call my first ever students) are in their mid 50s now. I wasn't much older than they were when I began teaching. I jokingly tell folks I was 12 when I began teaching. But the bureaucracy got a hold of public education too much. I left it behind along with the wonderful students.

Many of the students I teach now, from 16 years old on up, come from the school of hard knocks. Many of the older adults had to leave school to help out their families financially. Many were encouraged to quit by fathers who thought 16 year old boys needed to be working. With all the layoffs in our area in the textile business, these people who have given 20 and 30 years of their time to the company find that without a high school diploma, they can't get a job. Experience means nothing. I really don't agree with that in so many ways, even as a life long educator.

But I have witnessed lives changing because of a layoff. My instructional assistant and now a good friend was my student once. She came back from vacation after working for a company for 16 years and found the doors padlocked. I like to say she came to us kicking and screaming. She was really scared of failure like so many of our students. But she had a spark. She was a great organizer. She became the president of the student council. She began volunteering to answer our phones when we were swamped with other things. I noticed. When she did pass her GED, I immediately got the ball rolling on getting her hired. She has been with me for 9 years now and is invaluable. She was Student of the Year in our state in 2002 and has been an inspiration to others. She came from a family of 12 kids and lived in the poorest neighborhood. Her children are college graduates, one from Georgia Tech.  I forgive her for that. :)

So I will teach until I tire of it probably in a couple years. Then I'll write. I've told my friend that if I ever become busy enough in writing, she can be my right hand man. She already is anyway.

We brought in some new students today. They had the look of so many of those who want to succeed, but are so afraid. I love to watch the transition of these special students who find out that they really can do fractions, algebra, and geometry. The really can write a decent essay. They really do have intelligence.

So I will get back to my packing. I'm looking forward to going away for a few days, to network with others who feel the way that I do. So here's to Adult Education--it can change a life.


Anonymous said...

Thank goodness for those with the patience to teach the older student...we can be a little set in our ways...but you likely haven't noticed that.

Coleen Brooks said...

I really love my adult students. Some probably are set in their ways, but, you're right. I don't notice that at all. I notice what they accomplish which is so much.

Anonymous said...

I am so very thankful that you are so dedicated to ALL of your students, kids and adults. Without teachers like you, there wouldn't be nurses like me.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Good for you. And good for all those people you're helping. Education can make a difference, no matter what the age of the student. And I suspect the students you have now are more motivated to learn than some of your former 8th graders were.