The day before yesterday, I talked about my experiences working in a prison. Again, I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to continue working with prisoners. They are people, too. People, who made mistakes. And, I think that the American society often forgets that. In my opinion, many had accepted that they were wrong and many were trying to make their amends and make their lives right. It is so hard for ex-convicts once they get out of jail. Society has every reason to be scared and concerned about these folks. Prison does harden some. However, prison, also, does rehabilitate some. That was my goal working there. I say in my teaching philosophy that “education gives people the keys to a better life.” In my opinion a good education is apart of the rehabilitation process. It WILL make them better citizens.
I had a close friend, who after going to prison, was trying to get a job and make his life better. He is a smart and intelligent and bright guy. The more he tried, the more doors were shut in his face. No one believed that he had given up his gang banging ways. I saw him struggle for months trying to live the right life. Going to work everyday and bringing home the bacon for a family is crucial to a man’s self esteem and dignity. Society wouldn’t give him a chance. It wasn’t long before his gang friends had reentered his life. He declined their company several times. But after it seemed like nothing else was going to happen good for him, he reentered his old life. They offered him a chance for real money. He couldn’t resist this. My friends and I were heart broken. We couldn’t do anything to stop this. His family couldn’t do anything to stop him.
How did my prison experience lead me to a public classroom?
We know that down here in the South, rehabilitation and education is not a big part of the prison experience. It is strange. From my experience, they expect the church services held by volunteers, a chaplain and 3 or 4 social workers to rehabilitate an entire facility of people. I believe that this is why prison doesn’t work. It is a punishment and protects society, but how do we get to a point these people are changed and they don’t succumb to the life they had before prison? Maybe, we can somehow stop people from doing things that would land them in prison.
When I entered graduate school, I was naively idealistic with lofty goals of changing the world. Isn’t that why most enter the profession? After working with AmeriCorps, I believe that if there was intervention before adulthood we would have a better world. I accepted my calling. I wanted give middle schoolers the keys to a better future. . . a better life. (But I actually ended up in high school, so I guess I need to change that as apart of my philosophy)
I still believe these things . .yes, education can help our society. I am just having some issues with our public education system—but, that’s a different discussion. Before I entered the classroom, I never knew how much children’s environment affected their education. If the parent doesn’t see the value of education, how will the child?
So after a second year of teaching, I am left with this strange problem. I love teaching. I fall in love with ALL of my children, every year. I want to give people the keys to a better life. However, it appears that the kids do not want what I have to offer. The prisoners did. It seems that those adults saw the value in education. How do you teach children to value education? How do you make them want what you have to give them? Can we really counteract what is going on at home? Is this true on in urban communities? How can we make the urban education system work? I think about all of these things b/c I don’t just want to work a job without heart. For me, it not just about a check. Education is important to our society, right?
***The picture above is not me, just something I found on the internet to break up the monotony of the text.***