The Person Who Thought She Knew Everything

By Martha Williams, Basic Skills StudentMartha Williams - for blog

The person who thought she knew everything was me. No one could tell me anything I didn’t already know all about, and I never asked questions.  I talked a good game, but really I hid behind myself and kept a secret from everyone. The secret was I didn’t know how to read or write.

As a mother, I wanted my kids to learn what I never did. I stressed the importance of going to school and listening to the teacher. I even volunteered at the school because I wanted them to know how much I believed in the value of learning.

I love to spend time in the school. It gives me joy to watch the kids learn, and see Ms. Rudin teach them. She has a hard job, but you can just see how much she loves it. Some days are so funny I can’t stop smiling. I encourage the students by telling them I notice how much they have learned, and I ask them to help me. They love to think they can help a grown-up. One day, while I was volunteering, a child asked me for help spelling a word. I could not help him and had to ask the teacher to help him instead. I had to explain that I could not spell or read either.

I felt so bad about that day, that I began to wish I could go back to school and do it all over again. So, one day, when I mentioned my dream and my sadness at being too late at age 45 with a family, a substitute at the school told me it was actually possible!  She told me about a GED program. I got so excited, and then I felt scared, because I thought nothing was going to be able to help me.

Through Job First, I enrolled in a program, and they paid for my books. My part was to attend classes and volunteer 8 hours a month. I could do that at my children’s school.

My world opened up when I first saw my teacher, Karen Murphy. Her face lit up the first day of school when I was so scared. She did not laugh when I asked her to help me. I took a deep breath and said to myself, “God help me.” I was going to do this. The excitement inside was intense; like going to Disneyland. I could hardly wait for Monday and Wednesday the next week. As a kid I thought school was a job, but now at 46, school is a blast. I never thought I would say, “I can’t wait to go to school!”

My kids are happy for me, and my daughter said that my volunteering means so much to her NEW custom shares_icons_edit4in so many ways. A few weeks ago I finally helped her with her schoolwork, and she said, “Wow, mom, you can read and write now!” It felt so good that now I think I want to become a teacher’s assistant as my future career.

I would tell anybody: don’t stop learning because you can learn something new every day. When I learn something new now, I write it down. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t know. If you find out, and understand, you may be able to help teach someone else. I take what I am learning in my own classes and use it when I volunteer. I finally can really help kids!!

School makes me forget my bad days and makes me feel proud of myself. I learn in my classes and I learn with the kids. Ms. Rudin taught me about Mars, and Ms. Karen taught me about maps of the world. So, I guess I really didn’t know everything after all!

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