School is out for summer. Yay! I finished all my summer school reports on Saturday night and handed them in on Monday. Although it's been a long year, I must say that as I reflect back on it, it has been incredibly rewarding. I feel so fortunate to have landed in a job where I feel capable yet challenged, needed and also appreciated.
The student population of our schools (VSB Adult Ed for those of you reading who might not know) is extremely diverse in so many ways; race, religion, age, education, and experience to name a few. The one thing they seem to have in common is a desire to learn and a true, and I truly mean "true," appreciation of the value of education in their lives. I have taught everyone from kids who failed and are trying again, professionals whose credentials don't transfer from their country of origin, those who never got the chance by choice or circumstance to finish high school , seniors who haven't given up on the need or ability to continue to learn and every type of person in between. I have been touched on innumerable occasions by the stories these people bring with them, and humbled every day by my own good fortune in life. The amount of work the majority of my students put into passing and often surpassing my classes blows me away as well as motivates me to work harder to give them the skills that will help them in their own personal quests.
And I'll tell you, do those needs ever differ. A large part of the challenge that I love is creating a curriculum that is rich enough in meaning to people from all these different places; to students trying to get into university, to second-generation Canadians, to new immigrants who would like to work at jobs requiring our system's most basic of requirements: graduation from high school. How can a nineteen-year-old Canadian born middle-class teen fathom the heartache of a man forced to flee his country with only the clothes on his back? The months of living in refugee camps? Seeing friends maimed or killed in war-affected countries? How can a young new bride of an arranged marriage comprehend the doctor who left his successful practice to start again in Vancouver; doing janitorial work by night, studying in high school by day. But more importantly, how can I make one class work for all these diverse people? How can I help each of these individuals move forward in their lives? What can I, whose own life experience and knowledge pales in comparison, give them?
I guess I only give them the best of what I can. I teach them the skills they need in a sometimes-backwards system that places emphasis on knowledge that is not always useful in real life, but necessary to get them into the colleges or universities they dream of. I try and give them the self-assurance that they can do it, no matter how tough, no matter how humiliating it feels. I give them a safe place to explore their abilities with a language either new, rusty, or weak. I treat them like friends. I respect them as adults. I learn from their stories, their laughs, their tears and their words.
And so as I begin to relax and unwind from a year of more work than I was expecting, I just thought I'd take a minute to write down why it is that I do my job and why it is that I love my job.
I think I'll print this out and frame it above my desk for next years endless hours of marking essays... !