Last night was the first class for the Speech class I teach at the prison in Colorado City. The classes at the prison are usually my favorite... I think it has something to do with the fact that the guys have nothing better to do, so they actually do the reading I ask them to do!
Each semester brings me a great variety of characters and I have to remind myself that these guys are in there for a reason. Last night was no different...the guys range in age from 18-24... one of them turned 18 last week. I had one student who quickly informed me that he went to high school with me, and was sure we ran in the same circles. I find it quite comical that of the 5 semesters I have taught at the prison, there has only been one semester that there wasn't someone I went to school with. What does that tell you about my high school?
I stood at my classroom door last night (to hold it open as there was no door stop) and some of my past students came up to tell me hello. I had one guy tell me that I was the first teacher to treat him like a person. How sad is that? I have a hard time with some of my fellow teachers, because I truly feel that it isn't my job to be difficult or judgmental with these guys. Some of them are in there for crimes I have committed within my lifetime, who am I to treat them as less than human? I realize that the guards treat the men a certain way because they have to... there are rules to be followed and any breach could spell disaster... I mean we are at a prison. But in my classroom, they are my students... not robbers and drugies.
I was sitting here thinking about things I have learned while teaching at the prison that ya'll might appreciate... here is my list.
1. Prisoners have greater access to drugs than any free person might ( I had a headache and was told they could get me anything I needed....)
2. Don't leave any color pen on your desk... it won't be there when you turn back around... which leads me to three...(for those who don't know, the ink from the pens is what they use to give each other tattoos with their homemade tattoo guns)
3. Never turn your back on a classroom of prisoners... if you do they have a tendency to comment about your goods under their breathe...
4. When walking down the hall to leave the building... do NOT look to the right... the bathroom is that direction and there are no doors, stalls or anything... if you look that way you see what these boys are blessed with.... (no one shared with me this bit of information when I started, so of course I turned the corner... looked that way... and wow... I of course quickly looked away but I was still embarrassed.)
5. The guys have the ability to find out any bit of information they want to... so you might as well share. (Last night, one guy asked my first name and I just looked at him... another yelled 'Jessica it's in the WTC handbook'.... Wow! What a way to protect my identity!)
Anyway, I am exhausted... and my brain hurts from the 4 classes I am teaching right now... so I think it is off to bed for me! I am sure I will have plenty of stories about the prison over the next 9 weeks....hopefully only funny ones...