Inspiring Students in Early Sobriety Through Academics

June 06, 2012 (PRLEAP.COM) Health News
June 6, 2012 - Prior to joining Sober College, in late 2011, Joe Lapin received the prestigious Silver Palm award from Florida International University for his exceptional work in building communities inside and outside the classroom. Now, for the past nine months, Joe has been teaching at Sober College, and in that short window of time, he has lived up to this award and has succeeded in touching the lives of both residents and staff.

Since joining the Sober College academic team, Joe has made prolific strides in improving our residents' ability to articulate, paraphrase and capture ideas and emotions through his work as our on-site creative writing professor. These tools are vital to our residents, because, as recovering addicts and alcoholics in early sobriety, they are not yet capable of voicing the mass of emotions that arises due to extensive periods of drug and alcohol use. Having the ability to voice a difficult feeling is incredibly beneficial to the recovery process, and Joe's work, both as a teacher and a mentor, helps our residents grow both in and out of the classroom.

"I hope that when you come into my classroom you feel like this is a completely different experience than you have had in other classes. I'm open to whatever you bring into the class. I want to take the strengths of my students and extrapolate them into something positive," says Joe. His tone is of the utmost ease, almost lackadaisical. With just the appropriate amount of bodily and vocal animation, Joe is a walking fountain of knowledge and a published master of his craft, which is both prose and poetry, who has seemingly lost the pretense that many writers carry around with them. There is no hierarchy between Joe and his students; both stand on the same plateau, and there is certainly no "holier-than-thou" aura about him. He is just an average guy with exceptional talent, and this is just one reason he is so successful in reaching his students.

The key to building genuine relationships with newly sober young adults is taking a calm and compassionate approach. Joe has done this naturally with his students at Sober College. His friendly disposition makes him extremely approachable. He has a tendency to take students out of their comfort zones, which in this case, is a good thing. His questions cause you to think on your toes, provoking a thoughtful and uncalculated response rather than a droll and deliberate one. This is another example of what makes Joe's teaching unique and award winning; he is naturally a teacher, friend, and mentor to each one of his students.

"I think that writing is a process and that too many teachers, in the beginning of that process, stress the wrong things. I think they stress spelling and grammar rather than expression," says Joe. He cares little about academic convention and puts more emphasis on "getting your hands in the clay," writing passionately and concentrating on self-expression. It's difficult for someone getting their life together in rehab to be concerned with the conventions of post-modern literature, and so Joe appropriately focuses on quality and work ethic and less about grammatical technicalities. Our residents will learn about how dreams, physics and psychology influence the creative process and how to churn out stellar pieces of self-expression.

Joe says, "We write to discover. We pose questions, and we try to answer them the best we can, and in the process, we listen to music while we're doing it…And it's to create an environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves, being creative, and liberating the imagination!"