Let’s just jump straight in, shall we?
This past weekend a bitch was honored to participate in a presentation at WAM! Over 600 people hung out for three days in the funktified Stata Center building at MIT to discuss and debate a multitude of cool topics. This bitch was asked to participate in the Choice USA Youth Speak panel and explain how new media fits into my volunteer work with young homeless mothers.
As some of you know, this bitch is an activist who blogs. I have committed myself to volunteer as a voter education, women’s health and life skills teacher at three area women’s shelters. The residents are young mothers or mothers-to-be who are homeless. Some are temporarily homeless because their family is between homes, others are survivors of abuse and many have been kicked out of their homes as a result of their pregnancy.
My work began as a classic 'volunteer = save the world' project.
Fuck it, at least I admit it!
Anyhoo, I joined a women’s group that partnered with a local shelter to teach basic budgeting. Thinking that my ass could change the world one motivational session at a time, a bitch signed up. I prepared my lesson plan, printed off a PowerPoint presentation and sharpened my pencils. A little over four years ago I walked into a classroom full of ten homeless women under that age of 20 prepared to teach the wisdom of household budgeting…and I walked out with my mind completely blown.
You see, there is a huge difference between an academic understanding of struggle and a real world understanding of it. Oh, I’ve had hard times…trust a bitch. But these women were facing some serious shit as mothers and that’s a different galaxy from a bitch facing shit with two sorta-beagles (wink).
My students have taught me far more than I have taught them. Their dedication to being good mothers…the energy it takes to balance work, family and school…the strength it takes to confront addiction, rape and abuse…the mathematical brilliance required to stretch $20 for two weeks…yeah, these women are amazing.
My classes have evolved to integrate women’s health and reproductive justice, life skills and voter education. We use the internet for all of that but I also cover how to find shit out if you don’t have a computer, because many of my students will not have access to one when they leave the shelter.
I have to admit that the voter education class is the most spirited. My students really get into researching policy and debating each other over dinner (imagine a universal healthcare debate with baby apple sauce flying across the table...fantabulous!). By the time they voted in the Presidential Primary things were tense as hell, but I was able to cool things down by pointing out that democracy isn’t about agreement.
While this bitch is blogging a response to Gloria Steinem my students are researching which candidate for State Rep. has the best position on education, affordable housing, job creation and health care.
And while I was at WAM! they were trying to do in a weekend what most of us have a week to do...and fit in watching Washington Week with the fantabulous Gwen Ifill. Who said homework can't be fun?
I'm preparing for another class this week and wondering how I can bring WAM! home to them.
In a way, that is the challenge facing all teachers, activists and volunteers.
How do we translate theory into action...humanize our programs...and inspire rather than instruct?
A bitch is pondering my next class and, as usual, wondering what the hell I've gotten myself into...yet knowing that there is nothing I'd rather be doing with my Thursday evenings than discussing the candidate's economic plans with my class.
...I highly recommend it.