Students arrive to school at 9:00am like any other student – with overloaded bookbags, packed snacks, friends to catch up with, and homework done – except at this school they also come with strollers, pacifiers, and baby bottles. The unique factor is that this class is geared towards young moms working towards their high school equivalency (GED). They come to the school and place their babies in the babysitting room under the good care of the ECE workers hired by Toronto City Mission. They then proceed downstairs to the classroom filled with other women in their same situation – all without their Ontario high school diploma.
The lesson begins by taking up any questions from the previous night’s homework. Then it’s time to start the morning’s lessons. The subjects include math, reading, writing, science, and socials. In the morning schedule there are two breaks evenly spaced part. The first break is the “stretch break” which is used to check up on the babies, have a smoke, or to chat with the teacher. The second break is known as “question-of-the-day.” This is a chance for the students to build community in the classroom by getting to know each other. Questions range from embarrassing moments to talking about achievements. Lots of laughs and sometimes the occasional tears help bring out the students’ personalities. At close to noon, the lesson ends and homework is assigned.
The moms then proceed back upstairs to pick up their children and to start their individual journeys back home. This routine is continued for five months. At the end of the five months, the students write their GED equivalency test which consists of five gruelling tests over two days. It’s a very stressful two days filled with an average of five hours of testing each day. The class then celebrates their accomplishments together with an “all-you-can-eat” buffet while waiting for the results to arrive in the mail.