Class Update: Cancelled Classes Kill Morale

As you've probably noted from the delays in posting about my ‘Writing and Publishing’ class, everything is not going as planned. To date, I have taught three classes to my third cohort of students and had to cancel three additional classes. Let's take a look at this for a moment.

As a professional - as I consider myself - I find it important to be where I'm supposed to be when I say that I will be there. This amounts to an issue of respect. I respect my work and my students enough to be not only prepared to teach my class from 7:00-8:30 p.m. every Monday night, but to also show up prepared to teach as my students show up prepared to be taught. Sadly, this belief doesn't transcend to the staff member in charge of opening the Education Department on Monday nights.

While we've had class three times in the last six weeks, we've missed class once for a holiday closure and twice more because the staff member who is supposed to open up the Education Department didn't show up to work. I can't tell you how infuriating this is .

The sad truth of the matter is that my 8-week class usually takes a total of 12 weeks to complete because of cancelled classes. This in itself takes a huge toll on me - the instructor - and on my students. It is emotionally fatiguing to plan and prepare for class, just to be turned away upon arriving and finding the Education Department door locked and the lights off.

What is often not seen by the administration is the impact these delays take on instructor and student alike. My students, on the other hand, don't understand my role in this situation and hence react inappropriately. My students figure that cancelled classes are my fault. They think that I should have done something to ensure that classes are held when they are supposed to be. I try to explain that I'm in the same shoes as them, but this is often discounted.

Outside of their thoughts toward my role, they become mentally tired with classes which last longer than expected. Some have to move around other activities to be able to attend class. So, they look forward to returning to their old schedule after class. Each delayed class precipitates discouragement.

For all involved, the incarcerated that is, the following is a rundown of the various emotions felt:

•Frustration

•Annoyance

•Anger

•Exasperation

•Disappointment

None of these are emotions/reactions which we want our students to feel. They lead to students dropping out of class, the classes themselves being less effective, and the instructors losing faith in the system which they are attempting to promote. As you can see, a little thing like cancelling a class, when done on a regular basis, has a profound effect upon those involved.

If we as correctional educators want our students to believe in the power of education as we do, we need to respect them enough to do everything in our power to make sure that educational programming occurs when we say it will. We need to show up when we say we will and make adjustments when something is not working as it should. If not, we are telling them that we - as many outside of prison believe - just don't care or believe in them. For our sake, for America's sake, and for our student's sake, don't let this be the message conveyed.