Though I do work as a teacher, that is only about 30-40% of my role. I also have administrative duties for testing which involve testing students and making sure they are progressing to their highest potential. I am also, however, working with students who need help in the community. I am compiling information and creating connections throughout New Orleans in organizations that can help our students who need a place to stay, new clothes, a job, childcare, etc.
I came face-to-face with this job when I worked with one of our homeless students last week who had his clothes stolen. In my first week in New Orleans our house worked at Program of Hope, an amazing place at First Presbyterian Church that gives free service to those who are homeless and need help. Since two of my housemates work there regularly and the pastor of the church is on the YAV Board, I send our student to the site to get help. Unfortunately, I have not heard whether the student got the help he needed; but, his reception to my willingness to help and my knowledge was very thrilling to me and makes me excited for the future.
It is hard for me to say that education is not the end-all answer to our future; however, I do believe the work that the YMCA is doing will help our students have a better life. This is not simply because they now better understand long division and how to find author purpose in a paragraph. I truly believe that we are also teaching these students responsibility, problem solving, and showing them that a second chance can make all the difference. I spoke with one of my female students, "Jane", who went through all twelve years of high school in the special education program at her school and is back because she felt she did not learn anything. However, she has an autistic daughter who is falling into the same system that Jane was in years ago. When I asked her if that made her feel upset, she said no. "I know what that system did to me so I am working as hard as I can to make sure my daughter does not end up in this seat thirty years from now."
It is for students like that that I get up every morning ready to teach: I'm not only teaching, I'm being taught. My song for this week is called "Let Your Heart Hold Fast" by Fort Atlantic, you'll see why I chose it. I am also including a link for Program of Hope if you want to read more about this program.