Saturday, April 14, 2012

Frustrations at Service

Sitting down to think about one of our final blogs of the year made me realize how far our class and the learners of CFL have come in the past eight months. It is really crazy to think we only have two more sessions with our learners and we will probably never see them again. When I look back to the experiences I, along with my classmates, have gained, I know the time we put every week was worth it. Although we all have some frustrations about the whole process, I can confidently say the service we have done is something very good. From building new relationships, both with classmates and learners, to bridging gaps between those who are different, we have made a positive impact. With that said it is difficult at times to see the big picture and look past our frustrations.
I think one of the major criticisms I have about service this year is the organization and execution of the Center for Literacy. I cannot be grateful enough for the work Mark and Scott put into this program. They are so dedicated to what they do and to see that is inspiring. However, it is clear there are a few communication issues, both between Saint Joe’s and the CFL and the learners and CFL. Mark and Scott’s job is not easy but I do think there could be improvement. It can be frustrating when your learner doesn’t show up and you have to sit there for three hours and may not even have schoolwork with you to work on. I think there could be better communication between the learners letting Mark know they cannot attend service and then Mark letting students know if they should not come to a session. I hope for next year’s class students do not have to question whether their learner will be at service that night. It is also tough at times because Mark has mentioned to us that he will kick learners out of the program if they continually do not show up and do not put forth effort to the program. Yet, I know there have been times when learners missed several weeks of service. I would never want to make a person leave the program but I think Mark has been inconsistent in dealing with attendance and maybe some improvements could be made. Overall, I think there is potential for more efficiency and consistency at CFL. 
I also have to be very honest in this blog about the time commitment of service. Personally, taking four hours of my Mondays is not the easiest thing for me. However, I do know this is what I signed up for and I just have to balance my time accordingly. I would be lying if I didn’t say service has made my schedule more stressful, but I just have to remind myself that we are doing something good. I know myself and others find the three hours a little too long most nights. When my learner tells me how long her day has already been and how she has not even been home yet from her two jobs I do not blame her for being tired. I know that sitting down and reading out loud and doing math problems for three hours is exhausting. I think that sessions would be a lot more productive if they were not three hours long. Although this may not be a feasible solution, because traveling to CFL more than once a week probably couldn’t happen, I think learners and tutors would get more out of it this way. 
It is hard to look back at this year and think, “wow, I have helped my learner get her GED!” because I know that that is a long-term goal. But I have to say I am happy I got this opportunity. Although I have voiced my frustrations, I know service was an overall positive experience. Some kinks should be worked out concerning communication and efficiency of CFL and maybe even the length of service could be shortened. Overall, the CFL is making the small steps that we need to take to help those who are illiterate. And I am glad I got to be a part of it these past months. It breaks me heart to hear the stories of the learners at CFL, but I know that CFL fosters hope and is doing what it can to achieve its goals.