Teaching and Learning at Omega School: An Instructor’s Perspective

After working in technical communication, adult education, and curriculum development for many years, I found myself volunteering at Omega school. After a couple of months, Executive Director Oscar Mireles offered me a position as instructor. Because helping others learn is important to me, I accepted the position.

As an instructor at Omega, I’ve come to see not only the challenges our learners face, but also to admire their drive and determination. Many of our students have faced a lot of adversity in their lives such as poverty, discrimination, and poor education. These factors all have a negative impact on how effectively they can learn the material required to pass today’s GED. It is very rare for a student to come into our program with the skills that would allow them to graduate in a reasonable period of time.

Whereas a typical student might have obtained a GED in six months with the old test, they are now looking at a least a year of study. For those with uncertain housing situations, poor-paying jobs, and often, small children at home, studying for this amount of time becomes a luxury.

Sometimes our students don’t understand why the GED is so difficult. Of course, there are several reasons. One is that it is produced by a company that chooses to make it difficult. But also, if it were easy it wouldn’t mean anything. Everyone agrees the GED should reflect what high school students are actually learning in high school, and what people sometimes forget is that high school takes four years. Any type of equivalent diploma should take most students more than a few months.

Our task at Omega school is to eliminate as many barriers to education as we can, so that students can concentrate on their learning. We don’t want them to worry about how they are going to get to and from Omega, so we provide bus passes. We don’t want them to worry about their kids, so we provide someone to watch their children while they study. And we don’t want them to worry about paying for their tests, so when we can we pay for those, as well.

It is always frustrating to see the unfulfilled potential of a student who can’t complete their GED, whether it is because of something in their past or present that holds them back. Our goal at Omega has always been to give our hard working students the opportunity to fulfill that potential.

A Reading from Madison’s Poet Laureate, Omega SchoolChannel 3000’s For the Record