At First, I Walked by (essay from several years ago)

From several years ago, when I was an exhausted nearly broken full-time teacher at a large high school, I wrote this:

I WALKED BY…AT FIRST…

And I did walk by him, started to go to my car. I did not want to stop. It had been a rough, rough day…. and tomorrow I had a tough formal observation tomorrow, really tough observer.

But I had to go back. No, no, I thought. We are here for the kids. A moral duty. I KNOW something’s not right.

He had the look I’ve seen on kids who are homeless, waiting for the taxis to take them to their shelters.

Taxi companies don’t like these fares, for the suburban companies don’t get return trips from the shelters and they don’t get tips from the kids.

And yes, he’d been waiting for FIVE HOURS for a taxi. Soon, he would HAVE to leave the building , since it would be locked up.

Fortunately, I found the late security person, a wonderful SK I must thank more tomorrow. She and I found the taxi company, insisted they come soon as they had a contract with the school, then waited until the taxi came and RK got in the taxi. Don’t let him out of our sight, I told SK. I was afraid he’d be dumped on the corner.

And I cried. Ashamed I’d not wanted to stop. Annoyed I was so tired. Ashamed that I’d become one of those teachers, who put the stuff we teach above the kids.

As we are told, it’s our job to teach, not be social workers.

But who would look out for the RK’s of the school if not us? He had no other way home. He looked exhausted, dirty, and hungry.

As to the latter? Good thing I had treats in my car for the creative writing club that meets later this week.

RK took “home” brownies and protein bars.

He shook my hand as he left, made him write down my name and SK’s name, reminded him we wanted him in school and apologized for adults letting him down.

His eyes, his eyes, his eyes. The eyes of an old man who’d seen too much in a 15 year old boy.

 *  *  *

The next day, RK was not in school.  I never saw him again. Did I imagine this entire incident? No, I had called my boss for help, not knowing what to do. I wasn’t leaving a 15 year old alone.  My boss called her boss who offered to come sit with RK, and I said no, I’m already here, I am sitting with SK from security, and I will stay until he gets his ride.

I’m sorry, RK, I almost forgot why I’m a teacher. I’m ashamed of what I’ve become. What we have sometimes become as we stress over and with corporate “reforms” that put test scores and “growth” scores on the backs of teachers who need to support their families, too and sometimes pit student needs vs. teacher needs to survive.

It’s not right. It’s not good enough.  My reaction was not good enough.

I nearly kept on walking.

Valuable Resources–Support Public Libraries!

LIBRARY      Today I met my new student at the public library nearest to where she lived.  I had never been there before, so didn’t know what to expect.

We met just when the library opened, on a work day, thinking NO ONE would be there.

How wrong we were!  The parking lot was FULL fifteen minutes before the library opened; young parents were there with their children; senior citizens were waiting to get in and use the computers; job seekers were waiting to use the resources there.  How did I know this?  I observe people and listen well.  Furthermore, once the library opened I saw where they went and what they were doing.

When I was in graduate school the first time, I worked at a local library. It was one of my favorite jobs ever.  That library was so busy with job seekers, senior citizens, students, parents, children–extremely busy.  I wondered if a public library would be so busy anymore, with people using the internet at home.

That question has been answered.

This library?  Study rooms.  Glass walls and ceilings to let in natural light.  Vending machines with coffee and snacks.  Books, books, books and so many other materials.

This is what I noticed in my short time there.

And the hours? This library is open 72 hours a week!

Not all public libraries are so fortunate, so beautiful, so accessible.  Which is a shame, since it appears people need and use their public libraries for a variety of purposes. This library is not in a wealthy area, but it is in an area that supports its library and voted a few years ago to increase their own taxes to update and improve the library. This town also has some factories which pay taxes, so they are indeed fortunate to be able to afford this great library.

Lesson learned today? Support your local public libraries, America! They are a great investment.

Thanks for reading.

Adult Literacy Training Completed & I Meet My Student Friday!

SMALL HEART BOOKS POETRY     There is very little dearer to my heart and mind than literacy in its many forms;  expression and communication across the miles and years is nearly miraculous, in my opinion.  I cannot say if I love reading or writing more, for I spend so much of my life reading and writing!  If I am not reading or writing, I am often thinking IN WORDS… and thinking about reading and writing. I teach reading and writing.  I practice reading and writing. My hobbies include READING AND WRITING.

I go to book discussions. I take literature classes.  I write poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.  I take creative writing classes.  I submit poetry and fiction for publication, and SOME RARE TIMES I get published.

I’m rather boring, aren’t I?  I am so much about reading and writing.

I’ve seen firsthand how literacy can improve and even save lives.  That’s how strongly I believe in the importance of literacy.

My own personal literacy story is still to come, but I will say I am one who was probably saved from a miserable life partly by the ability to read and write well.  (Then there is also the out of control work ethic and stubbornness, but those are stories for later as well.)

This Friday, after completing the second full day of training, I meet the student I will be working with for at least the next six months.    I have come full circle, since decades ago I was an adult literacy tutor through Laubach Literacy International, now merged with Literacy Volunteers to become ProLiteracy.

Here is a link to a great article, “Adult Education Helps Break the Cycle of Poverty,” published by ProLiteracy: click here.

The article points out that:

The value of adult literacy to our economy is estimated at more than $200 billion per year in additional wages and reduced costs for public support programs. Educating adults is a sound investment. Yet, public funding for adult education programs has declined over the past 15 years despite most adult education programs having long student waiting lists. Programs can only serve a fraction of the adults who need services.

Indeed, my student has been waiting nearly a year for a tutor, and some students have been waiting longer than that.  So many more trained literacy tutors are needed!

I’m excited, and I hope I can help my student reach her literacy goals; I know I will sure try hard!

Now I need to get back to preparing lessons for my college teaching job–teaching College Reading. Are you surprised?

Thank you for reading.

 

Day 1 Adult Literacy Training Completed

Fantastic job by Literacy DuPage, part of Pro Literacy America. Professional. Cordial. Encouraging.

One interesting fact that came out is that several of the future tutors wish to tutor to WELCOME immigrants to America. To combat the negativeness of the tone toward immigrants. To let them know we welcome them.

We get matched with a student next week. Then two more training sessions until we are official literacy tutors.

We even get an official tote bag and card to identify ourselves at libraries where we will tutor.

Oh. These are all volunteers.

Well done. Well done. Seeing a positive side of this beloved America. I know there’s greatness there in her people.

More to follow. I’m exhausted!

Thanks for reading.

Cry, Beloved America

img_1024     Many educators become pensive at the end of the summer; as we get ready to return to the classroom, we cannot help but think about how we won’t have much time to actually *think* for months at a time as we enter a whirlwind of teaching activity.  Think now! Think!

This summer I have been thinking about a novel I read long ago, Cry the Beloved Country, a novel published in 1948 and written by Alan Paton. (See more here: Cry the Beloved Country.)

While this novel is a renowned novel about South Africa, the urgency, sadness, and beauty of the country strikes me to this day and the title–Cry, the Beloved Country.  This is how I felt after seeing Spike Lee’s latest movie, The Blackkklansman.  Cry, beloved America. Is there hope for us? Is there? Can we reach across the years and miles and truly love and respect all Americans?

The news from Washington? Cry, cry, beloved America.

And then I think of returning to the classroom next week and I could weep again for other reasons.

I so strongly believe in the power of literacy to improve lives, and I am so very proud to always have been a teacher of literacy in a nation that educates all students. All students.  I am no longer teaching high school, but when I see my class rosters and check into the background of my students I feel very proud, happy, a bit scared, but mostly so very excited to be a reading instructor at the community college level.

My students, as they usually are, will be those for whom English is not a first language, or those whom struggle with reading and writing.

That’s why I am there, to help them. To create lessons that will invite them to the literacy table, a great strong table.

I so desperately believe in the great promise of educating all students and I so strongly feel pride in our community college system.

So come to class students; I am waiting eagerly to meet you and start our literacy journey together.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Adjunct Anxiety

anxiety-clipart-canstock15563771           Checking those rosters, waiting to hear if I have a job even after working dozens of hours on syllabi and first week materials… I knew this when I took the job.  I wanted part time.  I agree the full time teachers should be full time.

It’s just very anxiety producing right now not knowing–paycheck or no paycheck. If a paycheck, how much, how many classes will I teach?

I was full time for decades. I don’t want that anymore; I am just suffering from AA, Adjunct Anxiety.

If I don’t end up teaching, I will have much more time for reading, writing, publishing, cleaning, cooking, etc. Pursue volunteering for causes I believe in. (I am already doing that, but could be more involved.)

I am just not ready for that yet.  I went from 70- 100 hours a week of work to part-time, and that’s taking getting used to. Yes, 70- 100 hours a week many weeks. Ask an English teacher.

Plus there is the issue of a paycheck.  I am just not ready to say good-bye to that paycheck yet.

I’m not aging gracefully, I can see.

Thanks for reading.

 

Judge blocks 3-D guns for now … phew And sunset on the Rocky Mountains

Phew. Oh, my beloved America. Oh … so scary. So sad. Land of the brave ? Not this. Not this.

I love you, America. Your warm friendly people. Your constitution. Your principles.

I do not love our gun culture.

Sunset on the Rocky Mountains

Weep, weep.

Read more here and many other news sites today:

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/399787-federal-judge-blocks-trump-admin-from-allowing-release-of-plans-for

Literacy Tutor Training Tomorrow

book      “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” –Frederick Douglass.

Since I believe so strongly in the power of literacy to improve lives, I am going back to my teaching beginning, with adult literacy tutoring.  Although I am a licensed reading specialist, English teacher, and reading teacher, tutoring adults is different and requires specialized training.  I am going to https://literacydupage.org/ tomorrow, and may do the tutor training where I teach in the fall as well.  Then I will decide which program I want to actually tutor with.

I feel my life has been enriched because I can read and write rather easily, and I would like to help others grow in skills.   I’ve had a wonderful career in teaching (and still teach college part time), and I respect and truly like people.  I hope I have a lot to offer those needing help.

Back in the 70s and 80s, I was a volunteer adult literacy tutor, while I worked in business and before I entered teaching. Now that I am “sort of”retired, it’s come full circle and I return to my first teaching experience. It’s interesting how that works!  I also remember my students could not believe people were not being paid to be tutors, since in their countries they didn’t find free tutoring. I don’t know about that, as I’ve not been to another country looking for free tutoring.

I think it’s important to give back to causes that one believes in, and I believe in the power of literacy.

Thanks for reading.

Charles White: a Retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago

soldier

(Soldier, Charles White)

A Charles White retrospective is at the amazing Art Institute of Chicago right now through September third.  The Art Institute, on its web page Charles White at the Art Institute of Chicago, states:

Charles White, born and educated in Chicago, was one of the preeminent artists to emerge during the city’s Black Renaissance of the 1930s and 1940s. A passionate mural and easel painter and superbly gifted draftsman, White powerfully interpreted African American history, culture, and lives in striking works that nevertheless have a more universal resonance

I’m not an artist, nor am I an art critic.  But what comes to mind and to heart while viewing his works was all of this: dignity, pain, suffering, caring, compassion, strength. These are not art words, and I cannot speak about what White used to create such art. But I can speak to how White;s artwork affected me, a highly sensitive poet.  I would like to find words deserving of the near reverence I felt in the presence of art that is not only great, but art from a great person. White felt people were basically good and his works are imbued with love and respect as well as with a painful knowledge of social injustice, racism, poverty, separation, loss.

I almost feel I should step back, use few words, and just show the photos, simple photos taken by my little phone camera. You can see I am not a professional or even a good photographer, but I believe you can sense the greatness of White’s art work even from my phone photos.

If you can get to the Art Institute of Chicago, I would highly recommend seeing this retrospective.  I will go again, and perhaps find some words. If you cannot get to the AIC, look here for insights and images: http://www.artic.edu/exhibition/charles-white-retrospective.

White’s creative compassion stays with me.

Charles White, a retrospective, now at the AIC through September 3rd. 

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http://m.artic.edu/node/7905