Recent Alum Layne Ransom On Her Job as a Migrant School Aide

In May, I graduated from Ball State with a creative writing degree and this plan in mind:  I’d take a year off from school to work, then start grad school to work toward an MFA in creative writing, specifically poetry.  Bam.

Now I’d just have to find a job. 

And finding a job, any job, happened quickly enough – I got hired at The Gap, that quintessential place of employment for fresh-out-of-the-oven liberal arts graduates in a bad job market – but minimal scheduled part-time hours plus the occasional “can you cover my Sat. shift? seein Britney in concert. thx” text weren’t gonna cut it past summer.  Thankfully, through a connection I got hired as a migrant school aide for Alexandria-Monroe High School to work with kids from seventh through twelfth grade, concentrating on the junior high kids.

So you’re probably wondering a couple things, such as:  what do you mean by “migrant school?”  And what is it that you actually do?

First, to explain migrant school:  a Red Gold tomato processing plant located in Orestes, Indiana and G&G Peppers in Gaston, Indiana provide a lot of seasonal factory and harvesting jobs, respectively, for migrant workers that come here for parts of summer and fall from Texas and Florida.  For workers with children, Alexandria’s migrant school program – the largest in the state of Indiana – provides a way for those kids to go to school while not living in their home states, with extra supplemental resources and credit accrual opportunities to help them not fall behind in school, which migrant students often struggle with due to the mid-year move back to their home states around late October.

And what do I do?  I’m one of those “supplemental resources” I mentioned.  I work with a certified teacher in a migrant homeroom of sorts, a place where the seventh through twelfth graders can come during scheduled periods to get help on homework and work on modules for credit.  In the day-to-day, for me that means helping my 11th an 12th graders with pre-calculus a lot, because hey, it isn’t easy – for them or my English major brain relearning math I haven’t done since I was picking out prom dresses.  And explaining to a couple of my eighth grade girls wanting help with biology, with giddiness for the subject that made them laugh nearly to tears, why science is not a static collection of facts.  And being asked by one of my sweet, quiet freshman girls to read her short memoir and make sure she had all the necessary parts of Freytag’s triangle, finding out she likes poetry, lending her Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems, and generally having my lit nerd heart burst forth with puppies and rainbow-winged butterflies.

Working as a migrant aide is hands down the most rewarding job I’ve had; I get to help kids learn, and I get to know the kids – clever, rambunctious, thoughtful, rowdy, hilarious kids that make a typical seven-hour school day seem much shorter.  Even on days when they seem intent on graying my hair before my twenty-fifth birthday, there’s always one who asks how I am or cracks a good joke or tells me they like my hair, something that reminds me why I’m happy spending a good chunk of my day in their presence.

One reason I want to earn an MFA is to eventually teach creative writing at the university level – in no small part because I’ve been so supported and encouraged as a writer and person by the creative writing faculty at Ball State – and knowing that I so enjoy helping kids learn in a classroom situation period, let alone a subject about which I’m passionate, is reaffirming.  I know for someone like me who wants to teach, any classroom experience is valuable – and I feel grateful to get this experience with the students I have.

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