By Martha Williams, Basic Skills Student
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 in 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!