Reflections on Another Class Gone By


This week was week eight of Writing and Publishing. Those of you who follow this blog know that week 8 is the week in which I administer the final examination, always an interesting activity.

This week I showed up for class at around 5:30 p.m., so that I could assist the two students who were absent from week 7, the class in which we prepared for the final examination. To my surprise, one didn't show. Regardless, around five other students did, in addition to my one, to prepare for the final. During this period of time we rolled through the content covered by the final.

Final Examination

As 7:00 p.m. rolled around, eighteen of my current students (all of those eligible to take the final) were ready to test. After collecting all class textbooks, I passed out and administered the final examination.

The actual administering of the final was rather dull. I packed up my supplies and made sure that all of my supplies were ready to go into storage until my next class starts in January. After my supplies were set, I graded exams as my students finished them.


Most of my students did very well on the Writing and Publishing final. A total of six students made 100%, two made 98%, three made 96%, four made 92%, one made 90%, one made 88%, and one made 52%. So, the vast majority of my students were in the 92%-100% range. As you can probably imagine, I took exception to the 88% and 52%. Though, my reasoning might surprise you.

The One Who Failed

Let’s start with the gentleman who made the 52%. There really is no excuse for this low of a score. This means that he got 26 questions right and 24 questions wrong. I just don't get it. He even answered that prisoners aren't allowed to publish articles or books. Pardon me for asking a stupid question, but isn't this the basis of the whole class?! The only rationale I can come up with is that he didn't bother to pay attention in the majority of the classes.

The concept of a student receiving a failing grade on an Adult Continuing Education class is a troublesome thought. I say this because ACE classes are not designed to be difficult classes. They are designed for prisoners who hold at a minimum a GED. So, the criterion is that you have to be able to read.

My mental hang-up is that I don't want to discourage a   student who perhaps has a learning disability. So, you can see my dilemma.

Though, it should be noted that I don't know if he has   a learning
disability or if he just was being lazy.

In situations like this I pass along the issue to my supervisor. What I do is lay out the issue as I see it. This way my supervisor will understand the problem from my perspective and will be able to make the most informed decision possible. In this case, I believe that the student will probably be passed because of his attendance record.

The Instructor Who Cheats

Now to the man who scored 88%. This man infuriated me! While my back was turned – as I was packing up my supplies – he pulled out his notes and cheated with them. The sad part is that even with cheating he scored the second lowest grade.

That’s the part that saddens me. The part that infuriates me is that he is employed here at FCI-Petersburg as an inmate tutor. To clarify, this means that he is an inmate whose job is to be a GED tutor.

What really got to me was that by cheating he was sullying not only my role, but the role of other prisoner-educators. His cheating reflects poorly upon my work and the work of my friends who toil to educate prisoners here at FCI-Petersburg.

The way I see it, the battle for respect is already uphill. After all, we are prisoners. So, we must be unimpeachable. As prisoner-educators we must be honest and ethical. Those of us in this role must have integrity in all we do. Sadly, this man does not.

My first inclination was to find the man and read him the riot act. After all, he insulted me with his actions. I shouldn't have had to have a fellow student - and friend - come to me to alert me to the tutor cheating. If anything, it should have been the other way around.

So, instead of confronting the man, I found my supervisor and explained what happened. Now, this really was a role conflict. I say this because my supervisor is Mr. Bill Batton, a fellow prisoner-educator. As it stands now, we aren't quite sure what we are going to do. Though, as I write this now, my resolve is strengthening. Tomorrow I am going to sit down with Mr. Batton again and sort this whole mess out.

In Reflection of Another Cohort of Students

Looking back upon this class, I see yet more progress in my abilities as an instructor and in my resolve to continue teaching this Writing and Publishing class. I guess it's an odd thing to hear from a federal prisoner, but teaching in here really seems to give my life some meaning. It provides me with a focus that was lacking prior to engaging in this vocation. God willing, I will become better at teaching and my desire to continue teaching will continue to remain with me for years to come.