Monday, May 4, 2009

"The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living"

Since most of my rants well from a constant source of cynicism, I'll acknowledge and jiggle a small tumor of positivity. Over the last two semesters, I've worked with a 40-something student who was initially resistant and combative to both her professors and the tutors whom she'd voluntarily asked for help. Her profs were always "wrong" or my tutelage was always questionable, and I got the general impression that she thought college educators didn't know shit. She's a bit of a rowdy woman, complete with tattoos and scratchy voice, the kind of woman you'd expect to climb off a road hog and beat you with your own hands. She was a high school dropout and even had an intravenous drug problem at one time. Last semester, her goals were to squeak by with C's until she earned an associate's degree and began a profession. For her, college was not about learning or self-examination. It was an obstacle between her and a career. But with a little encouragement and the grades to prove that she was actually capable of success, her first A immediately became addictive. Her amended goals are now to transfer to the University of Texas in a couple semesters and pursue a bachelor's degree. She's thrived in higher education, and I've seen her soften and express tearful gratitude to the people around her who had told her the opposite of what she thought she knew: "you are not dumb."
Since last semester, I've watched a blooming awakening in this woman, an awakening that I too experienced in school and have always associated with information enlightenment. She's not the hard, angry person who first plopped in a chair beside me and bared her teeth. She listens carefully now and sponges information with thirsty eagerness. She wants to learn, and she's recognized college as a place of discovery. She doesn't look like she just got out of bed anymore either. Her hair is nice; she smiles a lot now, and her loud and horrible laughter is a common sound in the tutoring center. She's happy. I see one or two people awaken every semester. Sometimes they're young, sometimes they're old, but all were limited by what they had once decided is true: "I can't." But they always can, and to bear witness and be a part of what they will come to regard as a pivotal time in their lives is more valuable than anything I'll ever deposit into my bank account.


Bash said...

Good stuff... rewards like that are hard to come by.

Chrissy said...

Beautiful post.:-)

C. Andres Alderete said...

Thanks Chrissy, and yes Mr. Bash they are unfortunately hard to come by.

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