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Tina: Finding a Tactile Way to Understand a Complex Issue


Posted on Tuesday, August 11, 2020, at 12:19 PM

We, as a nation, find ourselves in a complex period regarding law enforcement.  Documented instances of excessive use of force by police have raised the national consciousness.  The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, graphically displayed via video, drove home the lethal consequences of police officers abusing power.

Tina is a member of Vermont Adult Learning’s (VAL) Class of 2020, earning her diploma at age 53.  She is a survivor of trauma, which affects her ability to understand complex issues and synthesize information.  She worked very hard, with support from VAL teachers, to complete all high school requirements.

Grasping the significance of current events—with their many moving parts—required extra effort for Tina.  Witnessing news reports about police violence amid conflicting calls to defend the police left Tina confused.  She decided to embark on a unique, tactile project to make sense of the news while reflecting on her own experience with the police.

“If it weren’t for the police,” Tina said, “I’d be dead.” She sometimes gets lost and knows that, if she calls the police, they will bring her home.  “When I was going to be alone in my home because of a family school field trip, the local police came every day to check on me, making sure I was doing OK and to see if I needed anything.”

Tina created a work of art that she presented to her VAL teacher, Elaine Colan.  She used a Scrabble Board, glue and small tiles emblazoned with letters to create a sculpture depicting words she associates with the police.  Help, learn, law, order, thank you and kind are among the words she thought of when reflecting on her experience.

“Working with Tina has been a joy,” said Elaine Colan, Tina’s teacher.  “What I most admire Tina for is her persistence and dedication to achieving a long time goal of obtaining a high school diploma, something that other people said she would never accomplish.”

© Vermont Adult Learning

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