Statements to the Governor's Adult Literacy Task Force, June 3, 2004

statements from learners informing the process

Wayne Hoffman, May 21, 2004

Good afternoon, my name is Wayne Hoffman. I am thirty-seven years old, and the father of an eleven-year-old son, Nicholas. I am employed full-time, as a manager/coordinator, for a multi- company distribution warehouse. I am also a part-time student attending CCRI, preparing to major in business.

I left High School in Nineteen eighty-five; I was in the twelfth grade, with all of the credits I would have needed to graduate. My downfall was that, at that time, I needed someone to tell me how important it was to graduate. Unfortunately, I did not receive what I needed. Seventeen years later I went back for my G.E.D. and, without taking any classes, I graduated with High Honors. I accomplished this goal through Project RIRAL, and The Woonsocket High School. Project RIRAL provided my fellow graduates and myself with a graduation ceremony, which proved to be an extreme mental boost. That was when I realized I had done something to be proud of. Approximately three weeks later, I received a pamphlet in the mail, from Project RIRAL. It was an invitation to Transitions to College. My first thought was, "Now these people are not going to leave me alone." Now, I must make this extremely clear; I was very content with my G.E.D. I have a great job and did not a want to change. However, for the sole reason of becoming a better role model, I made the phone call and kept the appointment. The whole time figuring, if I pass this program, that will be good enough. For, I had never even considered college. However, it was not good enough for the (persistent) people at Transitions to College, who for three months pushed, shoved, scratched, and I think kicked me once. I was told how important it was to move on, how to create goals and take hold of them. If I only had them when I was in twelfth grade, I would be much further at this point. The people involved in TTC were more than just teachers; they were like my own personal Onstar system. They gave me direction in a caring voice, and would not let me stray off track. I drove with my pencil and they guided me to college.

Thanks to Project RIRAL and Transitions to College, I am looking forward to starting my second full semester at CCRI, and I find it very much like the third grade. I receive an assignment, complete that assignment, hand it in when due, and bubble with anticipation awaiting my grade and comments on it. I loved the third grade. However, unlike the third grade, college lacks structure and discipline.

What started out as just being a good rolemodel, has trickled in to several goals. I would like to major in business, graduate with my degree, and open my own distribution warehouse. All the while watching my son further himself with the guidance that I can now pass on to him. I have been fortunate enough to experience and learn from several different types of adult educators in, now, a few different programs. I would consider myself a flexible learner, partly because of my age, mostly because of my determination. I feel, as long as I am given an assignment, I will find a way to complete it. I am an adult learner, and I have responsibilities that come along with that; such as, If there are distractions in the class, I have a voice. If I feel that I am not being taught, I have a choice, meaning that it must be realized that it is not solely in the instructors or the programs' hands for leaning to be successful.

What makes a good program? In my opinion, based on my experiences and learning style. I want the ability to fail. I can not count an accomplished goal, if there was no chance that I could not do it. I do not want a class that if I sign up, I pass. I had that class this past semester, and I did not appreciate it. I need structure and discipline. I want to feel obligated to show up to class on time. I want to feel pressured to hand in a homework assignment. I want the need to study for a test, the need to ask people questions. I want to feel that my "A" was earned. Then and only then, will I cross one more short-term goal off my list.

I appreciate receiving a syllabus, in fact; I almost live by them. They give freedom and choice to be as prepared as possible. If a learner is struggling, that learner can plan ahead. If a learner is pro-active, that learner has a road to follow. A syllabus also shows signs of structure. A program can only be as successful as its instructors. In my short stint in college, I have experienced night and day instructors. One comes to mind every time I am asked to talk about classes or instructors that I have enjoyed. This instructor held my interest throughout the entire semester, challenged me to the point that I could not wait until the next class to show that instructor what I was taught. This instructor was never unprepared, knew the answers for all questions, had the ability to use exciting and amusing examples, and kept a certain energy in the class. At the end of the semester, I was told that this instructor had never taught this particular subject, and was asked only three days ahead of time, to do so. This instructor had earned my respect, and one can only hope the respect of the program. I hope to find more instructors with such ability. 

In conclusion, thanks to Project RIRAL, Transitions to College, and CCRI. I have received my G.E.D., a certificate of completion from TTC and, so far, credits toward a degree. However, on a much more important level, I have become a better rolemodel, I have accomplished many goals, and set many more. Most of all, I am proud of myself.

Thank you.

Robert L. Pippins Jr.

To all the members of this distinguished committee, 

You all have my utmost respect for the work you do in helping the citizens of our great state of Rhode Island. The fact that this committee is interested in hearing what my thoughts are on Adult Education shows me that we have good people working for us in this state.

Let me introduce myself; my name is Robert Pippins, but you can call me Bob. I've lived in Rhode Island all my life. My mother's side of our family migrated down from Canada to the Woonsocket area, and most of her family worked in the textile industry. All my relatives worked hard so they could provide for their children; therefore, not many of them finished high school. This legacy has been passed down to all the children in our family until recently when my oldest son went to college and received an Associates Degree in Business. Also, I have furthered my education by receiving my GED certificate in 1995, and this fall, I have enrolled in my first college class at CCRI. Thanks to the wonderful staff at Transition to College, Project RIRAL's ABE-to- college preparation program, my family's legacy toward furthering our education will change.

The coordinator for the Transition to College program is Marie Crecca-Romero. Whatever praise I could give about Marie and her staff would not do them justice for the way they have made me feel about myself. They have not only taught me academically, but in addition, they have helped me to increase my confidence and self-image. Furthermore, they have become my friends and mentors in life. If you would like to know what I think makes a good teacher, or a good program, TTC (Transition to College) would be a great program to emulate.

I believe a good education program starts with a good educator, one who is a good listener as well as a good speaker. She or he must be observant to the special needs or attention that should be given to a particular student; for example, some students may have problems with transportation, childcare, time scheduling for class, need for tutoring, etc. A good line of communication between the teacher and the student would help to mitigate these obstacles in the student's educational journey.

Additionally, a good teacher should nurture and build confidence in a student. I believe that students can learn from one another; therefore, it would be wise for a teacher to allow a student who is struggling in a particular subject to persevere and remain with the group, not create a subclass issue where the student would feel belittled or less intelligent. This could cause a student to want to drop out of school. I know, because I was this student.

I remember very clearly what happened to me when I was in the third grade. I couldn't read very well or fast enough to keep up with the other kids. The teacher put me in a slow reading group. Even though all the 'slow readers' were in the same group, the kids in this group never felt so all alone. I particularly felt shame, and even though no one ever spoke about it, I'm sure the others in the group felt it, too. I struggled through school because there wasn't enough emphasis on education in my life from my family, or from the teachers I had in those early years. I was not read to as a child or made aware of how important it is to be a good reader. Now I am aware that from books you gain knowledge, whereas you can learn to do anything.

I am fifty-two years old now, and like my relatives from Canada, I've worked hard all of my life. With my increased self-confidence in my ability to be successful academically, I have decided to go back to school with the intent on changing my career. The way things are going for retirement, I may have to work until I'm 80; however, instead of working in manufacturing, I think I might like using my brain instead of my back. I would like to help people in some way, maybe in social work, or in some kind of teaching capacity.

There should be a way for people to know about adult education programs like TTC. In my case I found Transitions purely by chance. I had gone to CCRI to ask if I could talk to someone about what I needed to do to get back to school. They told me that their counseling staff would not speak to me until I register for a class at CCRI. In my mind, I questioned this procedure, but nevertheless, followed their suggestion. I register and then was told that I had to take a placement test before I could speak to someone. I began to get a little frustrated because I didn't feel that I was ready for testing, and all I wanted to do was to talk to someone about going back to school. At that time, I just happen to see a brochure on the message board for Transitions to College. I called the number, and it was one of the best things I could have ever done for myself. Now wonderful things are opening up to me, for I am on my way to a college degree. I love reading and I love writing. I'm still having difficulty with math, but because of my pre-college preparation classes, both are coming along well.

I have a long way to go before I reach my goal, but it's not only the goal that I'm drawn to, it's the journey as well. I remember reading some facts about geese, and how all people could learn some lessons from them. I am attaching these facts and lessons to this letter, because I believe the "lessons from the geese" are an example of how a good educational program should be created.

I've met so many wonderful people on my new journey, and now I get to meet you also. I thank you for this opportunity, and hope that I have been helpful to all of you in letting you know what I think makes a good educational program and a good teacher.

Yours truly,

Robert L. Pippins Jr.

back to learners' page

lr/ri home