I’m very proud to alert you about a new staffing acquisition. In an effort to become more timely and professional, PrisonEducation.com has brought on a staff blogger. This blogger – who was acquired through our website management firm Intimo Media – will be scouring the web on a daily basis for breaking prison education news and policy changes. She will be posting this news twice a week to PrisonEducation.com.
I have to say, I’m at a bit of a crossroads here. I’m trying to figure out what I want to do in terms of my next book project. Right now, I am finishing up the revisions to Education Behind Bars. I have to turn it in to Sunbury Press, my publisher, in the near future. Then, I’ll spend a few weeks doing the finishing touches on Practice Electra, my debut novel. All of this should be done by the end of September. This brings me to planning my next project.
Right now I feel as if I’m being pulled in several directions. On the one hand, novels are easy. They don’t require a ton of research and they flow rather well. But novels aren’t socially important documents. Don’t get me wrong, they have a purpose and can fulfill some needs, but they aren’t something life changing. These days I’m focused upon changing lives and inspiring others. I guess that I want to produce something of real meaning, not mere entertainment value.
I am angry! Ok, I said it. I, a 25-year-old federal prisoner, who has bright red stars tattooed on his hands, am angry. I note my appearance and age because of the irony of the situation. The description that I just gave you of myself probably doesn’t inspire a general feeling of moral behavior or ethics. But both are front and center in the issue at hand.
The other day Mr. Batton and Mr. Rigney (one of the GED tutors) brought a new man to me. They introduced the man as a “well-learned man; a man who educated himself from behind bars.” He has salt and pepper hair, probably in his late 30s or early 40s, and comes across as a decent guy. Moreover, he was inquiring about becoming a GED tutor in the Education Department. All of this seemed to make him a potential asset to the Education Department. But boy was I wrong.
Today I went to Dental…yet again. While waiting up there at 9:00 a.m., the man came out of the Medical Department wing and sat down next to me. We struck up a conversation about his educational past. After all, I was a familiar face and the last time I had seen him was in the Education Department, where we spoke about him becoming a GED tutor or ACE (Adult Continuing Education) instructor.
Part of the grassroots movement of prison education has to do with supporting our fellow prisoner-students and bolstering their activities. In practice, this takes the form of celebrating their successes and in lending a helping hand when one is needed. Today I wish to celebrate one of my student’s phenomenal pieces of work. This work, titled The Acorn, was written by A.J. Pettitt. He is quite a character. I jokingly told him that he is such a character he actually wrote something very normal. I hope that you enjoy this piece.
Looking back upon the experience of creating a course, seeking approval for it, and teaching it, I see tremendous growth in myself. And I see more. I have now come to a greater understanding of what it takes to be a prison educator and what it means to be prisoner-student. Now that I’ve been on both sides of the desk, I feel a sense of understanding I didn’t previously possess, a calm knowledge beckoning me to come forth in the arena that we call prison education.
Throughout this process, I have gone through struggles. I found closed doors when I thought they should have been open. I found a student who signed up for the course, yet refused to even attend one class, stripping another prisoner-student of a seat. And I found, and became well acquainted with, my fear of public speaking.
Throughout this process, I found tremendous successes. I saw men who had been worn down rise to the challenge. I watched as uninspired men became inspired and crafted amazing works. And I perceived the birth of light in eyes where before only darkness resided. That light was the light of hope – a hope that might ferry them out of the abyss of self-indulgence to the land of the living.