Sunday, October 30, 2011

Midterm Reflection

           At this time last year, the stress of senior year was overwhelming. Balancing the workload of AP classes with completing college apps was an unfeasible task. It seemed scary to think I would be starting college soon and I had no idea where I would be. Deciding which schools to keep on my list seemed impossible. I applied to twelve schools and did not have a favorite. SJU was never at the top of my list but as May 1st came around I found myself more and more attracted to what the school has to offer. For a long time I hoped that SJU was the right choice.
Before I knew it, it was the end of August and I had no idea what to expect. The first few weeks of college I was caught up in the combination of anticipation, stress, and excitement. I didn’t really have the time to stop and think about what I was doing, I just did it. Reflecting of the past three months has given me a new perspective. 
Being in college has forced me to think differently about the future. It all seems so real now. I have finally settled in and gotten into the swing of things at SJU. It recently hit me that I am going to be here for the next four years. It seems so intimidating to know what is in store for me in the next four years, but have no idea what the future actually brings. Even though I am only a freshman in college I cannot help but think about the next step of my life after I graduate from SJU and enter the real world. It seems only natural to be curious about my future now that I have begun this new chapter of my life as an “adult.”
I use the word adult because yes, technically I am 18 and I do not live under the supervision of my parents. But, really I am just trying to figure this whole thing out. It is a lot more difficult than it seems to be independent. Often, people just think of the freedom they are given and don’t recognize the responsibility that comes with it. It has taken time to learn the skills of time management and I know that I still have to work on starting assignments earlier and being more productive. Procrastination was always a weakness of mine in high school, but I’ve noticed on the past three months I have improved. In high school I would rely on my mom to wake me up and here an alarm clock is a necessity. Something as simple as going food shopping becomes a hassle. Overall, I feel like I have gotten more responsible doing things on my own and not relying on others. In college, you don’t really have a choice; if you don’t do something then it doesn’t get done.
The environment at SJU is completely different than my high school. Competitive does not begin to describe my school district in my hometown. It was a ruthless environment where students always compared grades with each other after tests or big assignments. Here, I do not feel that pressure. I still work my absolute hardest, but I do it for myself and my own benefit. I don’t feel the need to prove myself anymore. It is refreshing to learn in this type of environment and I hope that this continues.
I would not have imagined meeting the people that I have here at Saint Joe’s. I feel lucky to have made close friends with girls on my floor. It is weird to think that we know each other so well and only met three months ago. My perspective has changed by meeting new people and learning where others have come from. It is harder than I thought being away from my family. Some people don’t like to admit it, but I miss my family. I miss the simple things like eating dinner with my sisters and hearing my dogs bark out the window. It is definitely an adjustment to live away from home in a completely new environment surrounded by new people. But, this type of change is good and it is exciting. After reflecting on the past few weeks at Saint Joe’s, I can’t help but anticipate how I will continue to grow within the next few years.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rosa Lee

Rosa Lee leads a life similar to many others in the urban underclass. Her story is shocking and reveals the truth that many, including myself, are completely unaware of. I cannot help but feel mixed emotions as I’m reading through the chapters learning about Rosa Lee’s past, her mother’s past, and her family’s entanglement with drugs, shoplifting, and prostitution. It saddens me that Rosa Lee and her family are in this situation, using their welfare checks to buy drugs, being in and out of prison, and frequently staying at the hospital all because they are trapped in the addictive cycle of drugs. At the same time, it angers me to read how Rosa uses her own grandchildren to ferry drugs on the street corners. So far, this book has completely opened my eyes to what really goes on.
The quote that stuck out to me while reading about Rosa Lee was something that Ben, Rosa’s eldest brother, tells Rosa about her stealing habits and survival behavior. After hearing that Rosa has robbed churchgoers of money from their coat pockets during mass and feels no remorse or guilt Ben remarks, “Girl, you are going to be a survivor.” He continues, “Anyone who can walk in and out of church and not feel anything. Sis, I don’t see a frown on your face. You’re just as cold-faced as ever…Rose you’re cold.” Rosa started stealing when she was only nine-years old. It became a routine, it became a part of her life, and it became a way to survive. At such a young age, Rosa didn’t know right from wrong, so she did was she knew could get her by. She wasn’t given the best opportunities as a kid, but she did what she thought she had to do.
Rosa adapted to the life and the family she was born into. There was no escape; the only option was survival. Rosa now survives by going to the methadone clinic and paying off the debt her children owe to drug dealers. She has managed to get by not knowing how to read and only being able to recognize a few words. This mirrors the survival skills we witness at service. Just as Rosa was not provided with the best environment to grow up in, our learners were not given the proper education. We see how these adults have coped their entire lives with having minimal reading, writing, and math skills. Our learners may have dropped out of school and received very little education. However, they have managed to survive in this world and get by with familiar words and phrases that are necessary. Rosa’s childhood had consequential effects on how she lives her life, just as the environment our learners grew up in affected where they are now as adults. We see similar circumstances between the life of Rosa Lee and the stories of our learners: both have learned to survive. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

First Day at Service

As the first day of service got closer, I was filled with anticipation. Now that I knew what the building looked like, what neighborhood it was located in and where I would be tutoring for the rest of the year, all of my anxiety was focused on my learner. I was curious to find out what my learner would be like, how much he/she would know, and about his/her personal background. Being carsick on the ride there didn’t help my nerves either. Needless to say, I had butterflies in my stomach on the way to CFL.
When my classmates and I arrived, about half of the learners were sitting at the tables already. I couldn’t help but wonder which one of those women would be my learner. Mark greeted us as the rest of the learners arrived and he began reviewing everything we had learned at training. Some learners seemed quiet, but others’ excitement and motivation were apparent. He then called out the names of the tutors and learners who would be working together for the rest of the year.
Once I met my learner and the suspense was over we began to get to know each other. My learner is an African American woman with eight children and one on the way. She currently has a job but is looking to improve her reading, writing, and math skills so that she can find a better one. Her goal is to become a nurse. Immediately, I found this somewhat comforting because my mom is a nurse and I am very interested in the health care field. So, within minutes of meeting each other we already had some sort of bond.
Now came the hard part, we actually had to start teaching on the first day. I was particularly nervous because I had no idea about her past education. I doubted myself that I was not prepared and that my skills were not adequate. I feared being unable to give her the opportunity she fully deserves to become literate. It didn’t help that one of the first questions my learner asked me was if I had experience doing this. I shamefully admitted I had only tutored children before and that this would be new to me.
She proudly pulled out her GED books, as her long-term goal is to earn her GED. We began with some reading and writing basics and moved on to her weakness, fractions. While going through pages in the workbook, I realized she knows a lot, but we also have some things to work on. I found out she is very independent despite not having the best education. She is able to do a lot of things that I hadn’t expected and she is a very hard-working woman. I was inspired by her love for reading the Bible. Her religion is very important to her and I was very happy to hear she is able to enjoy the Bible despite not being the perfect reader.
My admiration for my learner only continued as she shared with me her goals. She has several goals for herself and her family and she told me about a wall in her home where she has her goals written down. These goals range from the next few months to the next several years where she hopes to move her family into a new house. I became more determined to give her my best every session and help her learn as much as possible. Although it is a little intimidating, I am proud to be able to help her achieve these goals and I hope that she gains more confidence in her abilities along the way. I hope that our bond only continues to grow because I am truly excited to be able to change her future and the future of her family.