Well, Mr. Palmer,

Inside/Out Prison Exchange programI never thought I would be writing to you, especially in this capacity. However, I have a few confessions for you. You see, I tried my hardest to dodge reading “Deep Speaks to Deep: Learning to Speak and Listen” from your book, A Hidden Wholeness. Coming from a Caribbean background, and trying my hardest to move forward with the traditional mode of learning, I felt lost.

You see, I was unsuccessful in my quest for higher education. The conventional classroom/lecture setting did absolutely nothing for me. The deliveries of the teachers were impersonal and sometimes I was strategically seated at the rear of the class. There was such a separation with regards to me, the teacher and the students. I felt disconnected and the experience became too overwhelming for me to enjoy learning. I will confess that I was not successful in acquiring the needed credits to pursue my ultimate dreams of a degree in Sociology or Humanities. So, broken, I dropped out of school.

I am currently incarcerated at a Canadian federal institution for women. The last thing I need is sympathy. What was meant for bad has turned into the biggest blessing of my life.

I was introduced to the Inside/Out Prison Exchange where I learned about you and embraced circle pedagogy. Initially, I avoided your material like the plague but once I did accept it, I was hooked on your concepts. “No fixing, no saving, no advising, no setting each other straight.”   In this information age we are living in, I could not have imagined that suggestion being passed along much less adapted.

Stubborn as I am I did not want to confess that a white upper-middle or upper-class man has impacted my way of life. You have taught me how to trust my inner teacher and most of all to speak my own truth. Black, female, and to further add to my intersectionality, I am a federally incarcerated student at Grand Valley Institution for Women. And I have learned the value and importance of listening to the truth of myself and others like you suggested.

denise-quoteHad I been schooled in the circle pedagogy model from the elementary level I know it would have tremendously impacted my life in a positive, holistic way. I feel some unpleasant events I went through in my life might have been eliminated due to lack of support where my opinions were not valued. Because of circle learning, I am more aware of my feelings and fellow world citizens. We all have a story to tell and we should be allowed to voice our stories without fear of rejection.

Mr. Palmer, you would not know how much it would mean to me to have the opportunity to meet you in person. To be honest with you, I would count it as a major honor to meet you face to face. Just out of curiosity I inquired of my fellow learning partners if hypothetically they would like to see or hear you. Overwhelmingly, unanimously and positively, the answer was absolutely YES!!!!

I have a proposition for you. Here goes: If we (a credible university, Wilfrid Laurier University, the university that offers the Inside/Out Prison Exchange) were to invite you to Ontario, Canada, as a guest, would you please consider? All expenses would be covered and you could grace us with your presence for a few hours. Please think about it and could you graciously inform us of ‘your truth’ at your earliest convenience. P.S. we would even accept a letter if you decline our offer, for any response would delight us…TRUTHFULLY!!!

Respectfully,

Denise

The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program (www.insideoutcenter.org) is a partnership between universities or colleges and correctional facilities that allows professors to teach semester-long courses inside prisons. The students are both university (“outside”) students and incarcerated (“inside”) students. In bringing these two groups of students together in person, the Inside-Out program seeks to break down the barriers (both literally and figuratively) that separate us. See previous blog posts: Deep Meets Deep (Nov 2012) and Learning to Speak from My Soul (Apr 2013).

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