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Focus On Basics

Volume 2, Issue A ::: March 1998

A Learner's Story

by Marvin Lewis
Looking back, my first memories as a learner come from home. There were always books around. Momma and Deddy' had the biggest; they were the Bible. My older brother and sisters introduced school books to me. I had good models for early childhood reading and writing. I was read to a lot by all family members. I was well-rooted in reading and writing before I hit kindergarten.

On the first day of school, Dick and Jane was read to the whole class by yours truly. That's only because I learned from my sister. As for forces working against me, well, when you are the only Black person in your class from grades three through six: well, use your imagination. Kids can be mean at times; sometimes it was me. Once you get called a slur you're not really concentrating on the classroom, you're concentrating on retaliating.

I was working at Goodwill Industries when I decided to take classes at Goodwill Community Learning Center. It had been 18 years since I graduated from high school. While working, it hit me that unless I improved my education I would continue to be in dead end jobs since all I had were labor skills. So I started taking classes.

My family and friends were very supportive. They thought it was wonderful. The atmosphere was good. The Learning Center let me work at my own pace. What I liked the most about it was how the students were given the opportunity to have a major say in things.

Then I became a peer teacher. I helped with sharing information, getting information from everyone in the class. I really can't remember how they figured I had an interest in doing this. I think they asked me.

Of course, I got discouraged because it was new to me. But fortunately, a staff person shared with me that discouragement along with frustration is a learning process. As for quitting, it entered my mind, but I was immediately snapped back into reality by looking into my children's eyes.

The advice that I would share with staff and program directors would be this: don't fake the funk. That means don't pretend with the students. We can see right through it.

About the Author

Marvin Lewis is the seventh son of 16 children. His parents moved from Louisiana to Washington in 1952. He is the father of three children and an American Red Cross volunteer in disaster relief. As an Americorps volunteer, he is in his second year as a student organizer at the Goodwill.

Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL