My Mother Stutters Too
Posted December 9, 2011on:
Earlier this week, I visited some classes and met teachers and students that I will be working with in my new position of Adult Literacy Program Manager.
My goal is to introduce myself personally to all of the teachers I will work with, and to as many of their students as possible. I think this is the best way to navigate my way through a new position that includes programming I am not familiar with yet!
I visited one of the adult high school equivalency classes. I introduced myself, and personally shared a little about who I am and what my goal is with my new position. That is important to me, since this is adult education. Adults should know who I am and what I will be responsible for, so when they see me walking around or pop into a classroom, they won’t be wondering, “Who’s she?”
It is also important for me to be humble and acknowledge right from the start that adult education is new for me. My learning curve includes honesty and asking for guidance and for people to be upfront with me.
People seem to really appreciate that, and are more willing to reciprocate when I ask them to introduce themself to me and tell a little about why they are taking this particular class at this particular time in their life.
Adults have many different reasons for taking literacy classes. For some, it’s not easy to tell their tales. I had thought that it must be hard to “tell their tells” to a total stranger. It would be for me!
But it has not been an issue so far. Every student I have engaged with has been honest and told me stark details, in front of their classmates and teacher. It was evident to me that the teacher in this particular class did not know all of the details shared on this day.
One woman, in her late 40’s, acknowledged that she is ashamed that she never finished high school and doesn’t want to live with shame anymore. She said it embarrassed her to admit this to her classmates, all of whom were male and considerably younger. Not one batted an eyelash. It is what it is. It may have been their story too.
Another young man shared that he dropped out of school only 3 months before the end of his senior year, because he knew he wouldn’t graduate. He went to school only to leave school. He was bored and unchallenged and didn’t see any value in what high school was teaching him.
He is in this class now because he knows he can’t go any farther without a diploma and he is sick of his life being a dead-end.
I responded to some of what he shared, and got caught in a good stuttering block, followed quickly by lots of repetitions. It seemed a good time to share about my stuttering. I mentioned that I stutter (like I just had!) and that I am OK with it, and hoped they were too. I also mentioned that, like the woman, for different reasons, I used to feel shame and embarrassed to acknowledge that I stutter.
From there, I matter-of-factly moved on and asked the last student to introduce himself. Since he was last, he shared that since everyone else had been so honest, he was going to be as well. He shared a quick story of drugs, wrong crowds, bad decisions, loss and finally “seeing the light.” Everyone nodded and made eye contact, and you could tell everyone understood everyone’s stories as partially “their own.”
This last man further offered, “And you know what else? I stutter too! Not as bad as I used too, but every once in a while you can still hear it. And my mother stutters too. Sometimes her stuttering was so bad it was almost laughable. Not in a mean way, but she stutters really bad, you know. But she doesn’t let it “tense her” as much as it used to.”
He added, “me either. When I stutter sometimes now, I don’t let it “tense me” like it used to. It’s good to talk about it once in a while.”
I was kind of blown away by all that had been shared in 35 minutes. I told the class that and thanked them for their honesty, and smiled and wished them a good day before leaving. And as I left the classroom and looked back through the window, I saw the class turn their attention back to the math “brain squeeze” on the white board.
As I drove home, I processed all I had learned and shared that day. And wondered if that man would have shared that he, and his mother, stuttered if I had not shared it about myself.