I am taking El Ed 203: Multicultural Education right now. We were recently assigned to complete a community experience and write a paper about it, explaining how it will affect us as teachers. I attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with about 65 other people in Orem, Utah. I had not previously recognized the effects that alcohol has on families and specifically, on a child’s life. As I looked around at the meeting, I saw men and women, old and young, some with tattoos, one spitting tobacco, many swearing, and most drinking coffee. My heart dropped when I looked in the corner and saw two little boys, probably ages 5 and 7, who were at the meeting with their mom who is an alcoholic. Through this community experience, my mind was opened to children who do not have a good family life because of addictions, especially alcoholism.
People abuse alcohol because they think it will take all of their problems away. While it does alter your perception of reality, it has awful effects and is extremely addictive. The people I met at the AA meeting I attended regretted their choice to drink alcohol. One man said, “I started drinking ten years ago and I have been trying to stop since the day I started.” I learned how addicting alcohol really is and how it is a gateway drug. People may abuse alcohol to escape from life problems (divorce, death of a family member, loss of a job, etc.) or to satisfy their addiction. Alcoholics may not realize the far-reaching effects of their drinking. It can affect one’s spouse, children, siblings, friends, schoolteachers, and more. I learned how alcoholism and battling sobriety can overcome one’s life. One woman who was at the meeting said she is working and going to school full time, but she goes to AA meetings every single day. Alcoholism is a constant battle.
I grew up in a nice neighborhood where most of the kids I went to school with belonged to white, middle-class families. Until recently, I had not been exposed to people who are alcoholics. One woman at the AA meeting was so addicted to drugs and alcohol that her 9-year-old son had to live with her extended family. She has not been able to tuck her son into bed at night or walk him to the bus stop for 7 years because of her uncontrollable addictions. She talked about the other day when she got to spend a couple of hours with her son. She said, “I got to help him with his homework that I didn’t even understand, but I pushed through it.” I learned how harmful drugs and addictions are to families. I am so grateful that woman was at that meeting and I began to think about those children whose parents are not at those AA meetings, who are unable to be good parents because of their addictions and are not making an effort to overcome them.
Each person I met has a good heart and I knew this before, but I do not think I knew to the extent that I know now. The 9-year-old boy who hardly sees his mom wrote about how his mom is his hero for a homework assignment. These people are so good and they are trying to be better. I have been judgmental about people who have these addictions, but especially as a teacher, I cannot be. I need to love them no matter what.
This heart-wrenching experience taught me so much and made me realize how much children can suffer because of their parents’ addictions to alcohol. As a teacher, it would be so hard for me to see my students in these situations. I know how important parental support is in a classroom and it would be frustrating to deal with a parent who is battling addictions. Those kids I saw and heard about at the AA meeting are elementary school age. My students could be at those meetings with their parents on Saturdays (or more often than that) or watching them battle (or live with) their addictions. Through participating in this community experience, I have become even more committed to making my classroom a refuge and a safe-haven for my students. I would highly recommend having community experiences, such as this one, that help to open your mind to people and situations you will encounter as a teacher.