How many treasured encounters can one have in less than a year? More than I ever imagined. My first year in a part-time, 3 hour/3 mornings per week job as a TABE/GED coach/teacher to a multi-cultural group of adult students has been flavorful indeed. There hasn’t been a single work day in which I’ve grumbled about the 45 minute drive to get to the library in which we have class. I do, however, admit to grumbling about having to always set up the room, to grab books and supplies out of a closet. It has been rare, though, for me to do this chore alone. My students are delightfully helpful; Pam consistently comes to my aid.Pamela Chattin has been in the class since day 1; a student who brightened up my first day with her enthusiasm and a fierce passion to succeed. She has passed each of her TABE subjects with flying colors: reading, language and math – all scores, 100%. Pam is now doing final studies and practice tests in order to pass the more comprehensive GED exam, equivalent to a high school diploma. This is an amazing accomplishment in so short a time of study for it has been over 15 years since Pam was in school; she dropped out while in the 8th grade.
Pam is the single parent of two teenagers and juggles class while maintaining a part-time job and her parenting responsibilities. When I was asked to interview one of my students, Pam came immediately to mind. The interview has been included in Lake Technical Center’s proposal to receive a national grant. My interview of Pam follows.
(Q) What inspired you to sign up for GED classes at Lake Tech?
8th grade was the highest I got in school so I ended up cleaning houses for people. About 3 years ago, a job taking care of a lady with dementia fell into my lap. Her husband saw the potential in me, the good job that I did, and began to encourage me, saying that it was not too late. I knew then that I got lucky with this job and began thinking about wanting to better my life, set a good example for my kids. Plus, no one else would pay me this well unless I got my GED and became an LPN. I also wanted the respect for what I did and wouldn’t have this unless I had the documentation to back up doing a good job.
(Q) What was your first impression of the class?
I was really nervous, thinking that I would be the oldest one here, with everyone wondering why I had never finished my education. I also thought that it would be harder since I hadn’t been in school since 8th grade. At first, I thought that I could do the same thing at home, studying from books or online. I was disappointed that GED class was not like a regular class, with a teacher showing the class step-by-step. I hadn’t considered that each of us was different in how we learned or that we were at different learning stages in each subject. Truth is that I wanted to be more disciplined by someone, by the teacher, but I had to develop this in myself. It hit me that I’m my own person. If I want to make it, it was up to me to do the work.
(Q) Do you feel that the materials, the books and online programs like My Skills Tutor, are responsive to the individual needs of students?
I’m a person who likes to learn from books and each of the books provided offers different approaches. I like the books that start out with the easiest skills to learn and then build to the more complex. Since I’m not one to sit down for a long time at a computer, the online work didn’t appeal to me. I know that other students feel differently about that than me. The bottom line is that learning is easier said than done. You have to do the work.
(Q) Are you content with the amount of your improvement since September?
Truthfully, I thought that it would take me a lot longer to get this far. It helped that my teacher’s positive attitude made it so that I looked forward to coming to class instead of dreading it. The teacher saw my potential and it made me not want to let her down. The math tutor that we have has helped me so much. She can take a group of us while our GED teacher helps the rest of the students.
(Q) Do you have any particular suggestions?
Keep hiring teachers that have a positive attitude and that can see the potential in adults like me who are trying to better themselves. I had a good attitude for myself when I signed up but it’s hard to keep one when problems keep happening.
(Q) What are the best and worst parts of your experience?
For me, the best was meeting other adults who were trying to better their lives like me. I saw that everyone had problems; it made me thankful to know that my life was not as bad as I first thought it was. I’m going to hate for class to end.
The worst was the drive yet Lake Tech had choices. There was a class that was closer to me but it was 5 days a week. Three days a week fit my schedule better. I do think that a 4-hour session would fit better than the 3-hour class. It seemed like I was just getting into learning a part and then the class would end.
(Q) What are your future plans?
I was finishing a CNA course when I started the GED class and I am now CNA- certified. I’ve passed all of my Post-TABE tests and am studying more in order to pass the GED. My initial plan was to sign up for the next GED study session in September and take the GED exam in late fall. However, I’m doing so well that I’ll probably take the GED exam in June. I have already spoken to Lake Technical about the LPN class that begins in March, 2014. My goal is to be in that class.
(End of interview)
In order to pass the Language/Writing part of the GED exam, a student is required to write an essay. The essay topic is unknown until a student opens the exam; they have 45 minutes to brainstorm on paper, formulate their structure and write the essay. Pam did a practice Language/Writing exam this past week, a part that she was dreading. This is her essay; we made minimal corrections.
Pam’s Essay Topic ~ Describe an opinion you once held that has changed over time.
An opinion I once held that has changed is that couples who stay in an unhealthy relationship for the sake of their children isn’t always for the best. I once believed with all my heart that when two people have children together, they would always stay together. This would be the only way that the children would have a normal childhood. After fifteen years of trying to do the right thing for my children, I realized that this wasn’t the best decision. So I needed to change.
I once was very happy with the man in my life. But people change as they get older and, sometimes, it’s not always for the best to stay together. My opinion was that once you have children together, you stayed together no matter what happens. After I had my second child, I was 26 years old and very unhappy with the direction that the lives of my children and I were going. My girls’ father had stopped working and was drinking all the time. He had changed and not for the best over the years. He was a very negative person and never happy. Even though I could see that my girls were just as unhappy as I was, I still tried to stay in the relationship. I tried my hardest to make things work.
After fifteen years, I finally realized that my opinion had changed. I needed to make better decisions. The first one was the hardest decision yet. I took my children and walked out of the relationship. We moved to a better place and I surrounded myself with positive people, with family that really helped us to see that we were doing the right thing. My girls and I were moving towards making a better life for ourselves.
Once I had changed my opinion about relationships, many other changes took place and they have all been for the best. I am now well on my way to earning my GED. A few months ago, I became a CNA, Certified Nurse Assistant. In October, I will be enrolling in the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Program at Lake Technical Center. Along this amazing path that God has chosen for me, I have met my soul mate, a wonderful man who makes me feel good about myself every day; an amazing man that I will soon marry. I have also been given the chance to meet many different people along the way who have become the best friends that anyone would love to have; friends that I look up to and who believe in me. So every day now I always try my hardest to become the person they know that I can be.
I have now realized that the best way to improve the lives of my children is to first improve my own. I hope that my change of opinion about relationships can help them make better decisions in their own lives. Maybe they do see now that staying with someone you are not happy with isn’t always for the best. Your children learn from you so no matter what your opinions are in life, remember that you can always change them.(End of essay!)
Thank you, Pam, for gracing my life with your enthusiasm, helpfulness and ever-present friendliness. You are a treasure. Everyone around you can see that you are; give this honor to yourself.