Tuesday, July 5, 2011

School's out for the Summer

I mentioned a few weeks ago that June was a crazy month and boy was it! Teaching a 2.5 hour class four days a week after being at work for 9.5 hours (due to our extended summer hours at work) was really taxing. The time commitment during the day was rough and of course the preparation for the class each night was pretty exhausting too, however, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

Although I have taught a few times before, each time is a unique experience. Why? Well, one reason is I have to wear this little get-up to class each night.

(I was only wearing jeans in this picture because it happened to be the last night of class when I had a flex day at work and had been at home all day)

Curious about all the chains? No, it’s not my new style, but rather, what I’m required to wear to class each night, along with a badge that I was given after an extensive background check.

Yup! I taught at a prison…a federal women’s prison. It was actually my third time to teach there and I simply love it! Since it’s a federal prison, we’re talking about some really serious (non-violent) crimes. Mainly white-collar crimes along with a lot of women getting in some major trouble with drugs.

Really, it’s just sad to see these very “everyday” looking women in their tan uniforms missing out on a higher quality of life. Most of them were around my age, some younger, some older, but all with a story.

Most of the ladies in my class had young children and it’s heartbreaking to think they did something so bad that they jeopardized even missing a portion of watching their child(ren) grow up. Although I never asked what they did to get to the point of imprisonment, the nature of my class had them writing often and many times they chose to write about life experiences. (I taught a Business English/Communications course as a part of a college program that the college I work at administers)

I enjoyed the class so much because the women in my class appreciated being there. Some of them had waited over seven years to get into a college program (it’s considered a privilege to be selected into any of the college programs).

Thankfully, I usually don’t have a difficult time separating the stigmas that can go along with prisoners, but rather focus on my students.

In the end, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome of my class. I was very upfront and honest with them that a lot of the information we were going to discuss was flat-out BORING (and also quite difficult for them…when’s the last time you had to learn about prepositional phrases, correlative conjunctions, and every grammatical rule in the book that also happens to have an exception 99% of the time).

With so many “boring” subject matters to cover, I tried to make class fun and at least one bright spot in their day. I wasn’t there to fail them and I didn’t expect them to know everything about grammatical rule by the end of class. I just wanted them to realize they could be successful.

After they turned in their final exam, the ladies in my class gave me the sweetest handmade thank you note.

It was so kind of them and I have it proudly displayed in my office. They were also quick to remind me that they did not give a thank you note to their math teacher, which made me smile.

In the end, I think I got more out of the class then they did. Besides being overwhelmed with compliments that they wanted me to come back and teach more classes to them, there were always girls that would come up to me after class or tell me during class that I was only person who had treated them like a person when they were in prison.

While I may not agree with the paths they have chosen, I was more honored to be a positive part of their day.

At the same time, I also missed going home right after work and spending time with the two positive parts of my day: E. J. and Kathryn.

E. J. was great and did all the “motherly” and “fatherly” duties each night I was gone. He would take care Bug and things around the house at night (although, let’s face it, mommies somehow get a lot more done after a full day at work – like the pile of dishes he could somehow never catch up with? Hmmm). But really, it’s a lot of stuff to handle all by yourself…bathing, feeding, and entertaining Kathryn while cooking dinner for himself (which turned out to be cereal most of the time) and feeding all of the animals outside. Our nightly routine is a bit chaotic, but I missed it!

I missed cooking dinner, giving K her bath, reading her books, and unwinding at home with the huz. I especially missed putting Kathryn to bed. During June, I would only see her for about 15 minutes in the morning and she would normally be sleeping by the time I got home at 8:30 p.m.

We’re back to our normal routine again and it feels good. I love coming home and not immediately grading papers and getting things set for the next day. Things are still busy, but they’re just right.

Here’s a little video I took last night of the little Love Bug getting tucked into bed after getting her teeth brushed and a story read to her.

She gives us the “sign” that she’s truly tired when she anticipates the lights getting turned off by “closing” her eyes. Precious!

And just like that, I’m suddenly more thankful to go home to my family each night.


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