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Teaching RC to Working-Class People

At the recent Western and Central North America Working Together to End Classism Workshop, led by Dan Nickerson, Gwen Brown, Seán Ruth, and Jo Saunders, I led a topic group on teaching RC to currently working-class people. Seven people from a variety of class backgrounds attended. Some of them had taught RC to working-class people, in fundamentals classes or one-on-one, and others were interested in trying it.

Here are some of the things we talked about:

  • It’s great to have working-class people in our classes. They often understand that they are part of a community, not just a “consumer” of RC. Compared to middle-class people, they may be more disciplined about showing up for class. They are less likely to skip based on feelings of being “too tired” or “too overwhelmed.”
  • Large numbers of working-class people in the western United States are immigrants from Latin America or other countries where English is not the dominant language. If we are going to bring working-class people into RC in this part of the United States, we are going to need to discharge a lot on language liberation and learn how to use interpreting in our classes and workshops.
  • Teaching people one-on-one can be a great way of reaching this constituency. It can start simply by listening to someone who is having a crisis in her or his life and then gradually transition to two-way sessions and adding theory. When the student is from a different constituency than the teacher, it can help to connect the student with an experienced RCer from the same constituency group.
  • Make friends. Stick with the friendship even if the person drops out of RC. Set up your life to have contact with working-class people. Take the bus to work. Make time in your life for friendships. Relationships are key.
  • Many working-class people have to work irregular schedules. Many are now “independent contractors,” who in theory can control their own schedules but in practice are paid so little that they have to work at every opportunity. For these reasons, it can be hard for many working-class people to show up at a weekly class. One teacher talked about a student who had to stop coming for a couple of months because he had to take on additional work to pay rent and keep food on the table. She did weekly sessions with him, at a time convenient for him, until he could start attending the class again.
  • We need to use creativity and flexibility when teaching currently working-class people. One RC teacher told about a working-class student who would never answer her texts or calls. She discovered that the only time he would pick up his phone was at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday mornings, so that’s when she would call him.
  • One important constituency to think about is downwardly mobile young adults. Many young adults who were raised middle class have been forced into the working class because of the collapsing system.
  • Many working-class people don’t have or use e-mail, or at least don’t use it as much as many of us in RC are used to. In these cases, we need to find other ways of communicating with them about workshops, gather-ins, classes, and so on.
  • Stay in touch with people between classes to contradict isolation and discouragement. Call or text to say, “I’m thinking about you.” The leader needs to make a commitment to keep connected and in touch over a long period of time. Embrace and nourish people; bring out their intelligence.

Terry Fletcher

Berkeley, California, USA

(Present Time 187, April 2017)

Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00