This story is among the #39Reasons I am running as a Trustee for Vancouver School Board (VSB). Each story is based on my experience working at the VSB for over 7 years with CUPE and PASA.
Monday night, mid-winter and we had only 1.5 hours left before closing time at the library. It was already dark outside, but it was the only time she could meet - while her siblings enjoyed swimming next door. This was the time she carved out to tackle some of the barriers she was facing.
She sat with a level of calm that you couldn’t expect from someone working over 65 hours per week at around $10.00 per hour. It’s what she knew she needed to do in order to help her family out with rent.
I sat in the chair beside her with the buzz of the library surrounding us. I asked her how I could help not knowing that she had attempted to finish English 11 unsuccessfully two times already this year.
“I'm trying to graduate and it’s my third time trying to take English 11 at adult ed.”
I knew she was trying to graduate, and I knew that she was persistent and hard-working, but I had no idea that this was her third time trying to finish English 11.
I asked her why she thinks it’s been so difficult. She leaned in closer to explain that the hours when classes were offered were too restrictive. She needed to be available to work during the day and study at night, but the offerings weren’t structured that way. She also had to move recently due to a renovation, so she was even further from the adult ed center. So after her second try, it was recommended that she try a self-paced class.
She told me that she learned best when she was with others, guided by an educator, and could ask questions, but she tried anyway.
After her second fail she got a different job, working nights and swapping childcare responsibilities with her parents who were also juggling three jobs between them. She embarked on her third attempt.
She received assignments and made her best effort to complete the tasks required - taking out the required books at the library and using her phone as much as she could. When that wasn’t enough, she’d make time to use a computer at the library to finish and print assignments. She struggled because she couldn't ask questions when she didn't understand a concept and she didn't know how much time to spend on topics. It wasn’t enough - the efforts to mend together a structured routine without access to the necessities like time and technology made it too much of a hurdle.
The increasing centralization of adult education centers fails to recognize the very learners they are meant to serve. The lack of access makes it too easy for students to fade away because they can’t keep up to the steadfast changes of their education system. Yet here we are, sitting side-by-side trying to navigate our way through high school completion in one of the wealthiest cities in the world.