Bridging the Gaps


Since September 2008, I have been a CALP facilitator at the Saint John Learning Exchange.  CALP stands for Community Adult Learning Program.  This program, with its flexible scheduling and individualized programming, gives adults a place to improve their academic skills.  Often that means preparing to challenge the GED exams, but can also mean upgrading skills to prepare for a post-secondary course or improving literacy and numeracy skills to function more effectively in everyday life.  Having this program located within the Learning Exchange gives learners the advantage of taking part in some of the other programs offered here: to listen to the guest speakers with the BEST program, to transition into the WES program or to connect with the workforce coaches at Worklinks to create and polish a resume and job search effectively. Observing the benefits of the connections among programs here makes me feel excited for our move to the Social Enterprise Hub where the new space will allow for a level of collaborative synergy that will be amazing.

Having this career has given me a greater insight into what ďliving in povertyĒ means and how complicated it is to break that cycle so that future generations will have the ability to move forward to autonomy.  A few years ago there was a woman in my class who had passed some GED subjects but still had to pass Social Studies and Writing.  There was a question on one of the practice tests that involved a basic understanding of the Panama Canal and the effect its construction had on world-wide shipping and travel. She chose the incorrect answer from the choices offered and while I was explaining which answer was correct and why, she became quite irate.  She wanted to know why I knew this and she didnít.  She asked if I learned it in school, or did I read it in a book, or did I see it on the news. How had she missed out on knowing about this?  She didnít understand why my reserve of basic background information was so different from hers and her frustrated questions led me me to think about the same issue.  Was it because my parents were not expending all of their time and energy worrying about survival and the basic necessities of life, so they had the time and energy to make sure I had good attendance in school and a safe and stable place to live?  Was it because I lived in a diverse neighbourhood where people had a wide variety of experiences and life styles that were often shared?  These questions and their respective answers are just the tip of the iceberg of the complexity of poverty and education and how these issues are similar but unique for each individual adult learner.

Thatís why, in CALP, programs are individualized based on the needs of each learner.  Building basic background information, responding to the needs of each unique participant and allowing for a flexible schedule, facilitates learning that will help adults take one more step toward building confidence and independence.  Since I started this job eight years ago, the things I have learned about living in poverty and how to break that cycle have transformed the way I think about those social issues.  Itís so much more than giving a hand out or a hand up.  Itís not even just about the learning and the skills and goals attained by our learners.  Itís more about the intangibles; about giving individuals the time and space to learn so that their thoughts about themselves and their situations can be transformed so that they can really see their vast potential, not only that they deserve to find their rightful place in society, but that it can actually become their reality.

Author- Maureen Creamer

Maureen  started working at the Saint John Learning Exchange in 2008 after ten years of working as a substitute teacher in the public school system and raising her family. Since then, she has continued her love of life-long learning by completing a Masterís Degree in Adult Education