Education. It’s Everything.

July 3, 2008 at 8:58 am (Uncategorized)

It’s been a really full week so far (she says, letting out an expansive yawn). I’m knackered. I’ve just filed my latest review (I do some of Who mag’s book reviews, which I love doing), so I thought I’d better post before I fall sideways off my chair and end up asleep under the table like a little dormouse.

Today was very interesting, very moving, very inspirational. You might not know this about me, but I am a complete softie. I probably went through a phase like many teenagers of trying to be SUCH a hard-arse, but really it was a house of cards, and the truth is I am people putty. I love ’em. I like being around ’em, I like watching ’em (but not in a weird, pervy way), and I like listening to ’em. Today I did this a little too obviously… there was a guy sitting next to me on the Jet Cat talking to his girlfriend or wife or whoever on his mobile, bitching about disposing of dead flowers because they STINK, and at a certain point, I just started laughing. His disgust was completely comical, and completely warranted. I know all about it, you see. But he just looked right at me, as you would, as if to say ‘what’s so funny, you dirty eavesdropper?’, also as you would, but once he got off the phone, I said I was sorry, couldn’t help but overhear, and god, dead flowers, aren’t they just the WORST? The stench is unbelievable. Like death (uh huh… no mystery there, geniuses…). And so then he realised I really wasn’t a crazy stranger giggler and we had a very fine chat for the remainder of the trip across the water into the CBD. So I guess I got away with that one in the end (but only just).

Then I went to Ashfield to the graduation ceremony of the latest Schoolwise intake of primary school students at the Exodus Foundation. Llew’s mum used to be really involved with the work they do there, and she thought there might be a story for me in the Schoolwise project. I certainly think there is, but I think I’d also really love to become one of their volunteers. The program is for kids in years 4-6 of primary who have fallen up the 3 years behind their age group in reading competency, word recognition and spelling (all subjects obviously very, very dear to my heart), and after just two terms (six months) of supplementary classes at Schoolwise, in addition to their regular schooling, the kids have closed that gap to within a year. Gains of over two years in six months – no wonder they were so damn proud of themselves!

What can I say? Education is all, and literacy is absolutely core to education. How terrifying school must be if you’re having trouble learning how to read. I positively howled this morning – thank goodness I had tissues in my bag – watching these kids READ OUT their little speeches about what learning to read has done for them, for their confidence, for their interest in learning, for their family, for their future. I defy anyone to go to one of these graduations and leave dry-eyed. Some of these kids are sorely under-privileged and have a very ordinary time of it at home – and by ordinary I mean shithouse. To see those little faces break into cheek-splitting grins of sheer pride… I am choking up again just remembering it. One of the grandmothers got up to address the assembled audience of mainly parents, carers, other relatives, volunteers and teachers, and she was so overwhelmed with hope and gratitude for what her granddaughter had achieved that she couldn’t go on speaking. Behind her, sitting down with all the other ten to twelve year old graduands, was her granddaughter, who silently got up and came and stood beside her grandmother. Then she put her little arm around her gran’s waist unbidden, and, well, that was me gone again. I was a blubbering mess by the end – luckily I have mastered the art of Silent Tears, or else I think my mother-in-law might have been too embarrassed to introduce me around afterwards.

So that’s me sold. I’m going to volunteer. I talked to a few of the volunteers who contributed to the awesome turnaround in today’s graduating class of 52 students, and they said volunteering sessions generally run for 1.5 hours, with the kids reading to you one-on-one for twenty minutes apiece. That just isn’t a lot to ask of me or my time. And I honestly cannot think of anything I’d rather do than help kids find their reading voice.

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