Posts Tagged ‘Volunteer’


New Tutee

June 11, 2008

I have a new TUTEE.  I’m quite excited which you would usually be more aware of but I’m trying to refrain from over-exclamation-pointing.

My first tutor-EE (which to me sounds better than tutee), failed to show up to our sessions.   (I’m not sure what has happened to her.)   I was helping her with the math portion of the GED.   I was also to help my second tutor-EE with math, but her doctor put her on bedrest.   She’s expecting her first child in August.   

So, I have a NEW gal to help and she doesn’t need any assistance with mathematics.  No, this wonderful lady wants to improve her English.   She’s from Brazil.

I am having a tough time pronouncing Portuguese words so we are having lots of fun teaching each other how to say things properly.     When she told me she now works at Wendys, it took me a loooong time to figure out she was saying ‘Wendy’s.’  

I first met her on Monday and I’m meeting her again this afternoon.     She wants to get together at least twice a week.     

THIS IS A WHOLE LOT MORE INTIMIDATING for me than the math help.     Which is exactly why it is more FUN!!    (diversao?   I’m going on memory.   I only know I really couldn’t get my mouth around this word at all.)

Just thought I’d share.    Back to your regular programming. 



February 6, 2008

On Tuesdays, I attend Tutor Training.    Last night was my introduction to how people learn to read.

Now, I don’t recall how I learned to read.   I don’t think any fancy techniques were employed and I don’t think I was any child prodigy, but I just don’t have any memories of Readin, ‘Ritin, and ‘Rithmetic: “The Early Years.”

I don’t remember any frustration.   I don’t recall any nagging to get my homework down.   dick_and_jane.jpg Maybe the book, Dick & Jane and Spot?   or is that the one that always got made fun of so now we remember it. 

What I DO remember is memorization.   I went to a parochial school and oh!  the bible verses!!    And I seem to have a memory of adults telling me that I’ll always remember those bible verses!   But I don’t.    John 3:16, yep.   The others?  not so much.

Point of the previous paragraphs is that READING IS HARD?!   And I must have learned it by osmosis?    I don’t recall the process so how am I going to teach this stuff?   Especially to someone who – I’m imagining – is terrified and self-conscious and embarrassed?    And trying to live a hard life making ends meet?

I can see the very real possibility of me becoming frustrated, “how come you don’t ‘get’ this?!”     I see a futility in any process that approaches too little too infrequently.    Ten words per week?    Really?

Then you hear stories of immigrants who come to the US and learn an amazing amount of language skills by watching television.   And yet, there are others, who can’t even get the simplest of phrases communicated.   It boggles my mind.

Of course, speaking the language and READING the language are two different things.   

I’m still boggled. 

Phonics?   Wikipedia describes it as a political idealogy.    I admitted to the class that I didn’t know what phonics was, and that is because I associate it the term with a debated approach to learning how to read and not exactly whatever it is.   The fact that I learned to read using a phonetic approach is irrelevant to me.   But I probably did.   I just don’t have a CONCRETE idea come to my mind as to what ‘Phonics’ means.  

By telling me that phonics is only learning what sounds the letters make…

Oh.  OK.  I get it.   [but not why it is political?]   Sure, I know my letters and my sounds.  (Even that has been debated at parties here in New England;  but I CAN pronounce my Rs!    I don’t pronounce names right but I say it’s an accent issue NOT a pronuncation issue.   I mean, really!  I’ve been told that I don’t say the name ‘Bob’ right.   HUH!??!   and I know I don’t give much distinction between merry and marry and Mary.   Too fucking bad.  Get over it.   At least I don’t say idear…)

And this is why I told the tutor that I am concerned and questioning my abilities to help with the ESOL population of our clientele.    If I can’t talk correctly with the natives of New England, how can I help someone that can’t speak rudimentary English?    I’m intimidated enough.

I recall getting lost in Whitman while on the cellphone trying to find a friend who kept yelling/telling me to turn left on BUELLER Street and I was too stupid to realize she was saying BEULAH…    sigh.  Neither one of us thought it was funny when I figured out what she was trying to tell me.     

It’s possible that my tutoring role will end up being focused on GED mathematics and computer skills.    I can do that.   I think I can do that.  I HOPE I can do that!   I haven’t had those training sessions yet…


Giving Time

January 23, 2008

I was early, of course.  I’m usually always early to appointments.

I prefer not to drive at night – it seems so, well…   dark.     And street lights do little to light up more than the inch of perimeter of their physical being so the darkness still seems so very, very dark.   I hate wondering if my headlights are on.   Of course, they are, but until I am stopped at a stoplight with a car in front of me, I have no ability to verify. 

Plus, it was raining.    I really did not want to be out.

I wasn’t sure where the meeting place was;  I had the address and had a good idea where the building was, but, like I mentioned already:   it was dark.    I pull into the drive, and see car after car already parked.   OH THANK GOD, one lonely parking spot available at the very end!    I’m even under a streetlight!    Bless the universe, happy-happy.

I grab my notepad and check that the keys are in my hand before I hit the lock button and exit the vehicle.    I make my way to the entrance, ducking raindrops, splashing through puddles.    I’m 16 minutes early.

The conference room has 4 people in it.   I’m greeted by a very smiley happy young looking girl with long thick grey hair somewhat contained by a scrunchy.   A table is before her with scads of name tags all filled out.     [Wow.   a LOT of people are expected here tonight.]    I see my name;  the bubbly greeter says

Oh terrific!  You’re Curious C!  Welcome!   You and another are the only ones who signed up for this online… through”

She begins to ask questions about how I found this website and the others inquire as to what exactly it is, but it gets jumbled fast and we are in the entry way to the room.    We move and further attempts at back and forth discourse dissipate away as more people enter the room.

Seventeen new volunteers show up for orientation to the Adult Literacy Program / Reading Partners Initiative funded entirely from state grants and administered through the local library.    In addition to “the Bubbly One” who runs the program is the library director (this one has amazing big fluffy long white hair – it was entrancingly distracting!  This is blowing the stereotype for how a librarian is supposed to look!) and 5 tutors who have been working in the program.

     ABE = Adult Basic Eduction for Reading, Writing and Life Skills – the smallest group of students

     ESOL = English for Speakers of Other Languages (more p.c. replacement term for ESL  which stood for English as a Second Language…  we must not assume that people who don’t know and want to learn English that they only know one language already!)

     GED Prep = a diverse group and the biggest group of students;  language arts &/or math.

     Computer Skills = NOT advertised but the biggest request

     Financial Literacy – Local banks are referring students since they find more and more people who have no concept of ‘cash’, balancing a checkbook, saving, etc.

We enjoyed listening to the testimonials and finding out that we have a choice in what we may want to assist with:   math only, computer skills, any or all, etc.    I find myself reflecting that I am most qualified for this!   I had forgotten the experience I could cough up if asked on whether or not I’ve ever done anything like this before.    All relevant situations from the past 20 years come to mind and then it hits me.   Gosh, it’s been a long time!   Am I really that old?   Do I dare say that I could teach basic computer literacy when I’m probably 10 years from that episode in my life?

Yes, “C”, you can.    These people want to know WHAT email is…    How to send a letter via email to 6 different people without typing it six times!    How to ‘find’ the internet…     I won’t be asked how to build a website or optimize thingummawidgets.    

In college, I had a part-time job teaching study skills to freshman who were admitted even though they didn’t have the minium SAT/ACT score.   [State schools had to accept everyone.]    It was very fun!   And so evident that a few kids were only there to be away from home and yet still on Daddy’s dime.     My favorite part of every computer job I ever had was the training on my applications.    When PC’s were rolled out to replace the mainframe system monitors, I was on the team to train how to use.   One non-computer job I had was coordinating curriculum for vocational education and working with current teachers to stay abreast of technology.   I could have really loved that job except that the other guy I had to work with was one scary asshole SOB dickhead and I really didn’t like him much.   So I left to go sell IBM AS/400s…   [Hey, “C”, stop reminiscing these good times.  ha!   stay on task here…] 

So, I’m excited.    The current volunteers were so enthusiastic about their experiences, the highs AND getting through the lows.  That the administrators were top notch and fabulous.    Though resources, ie powerpoint and computers were ‘coming’ – [Truly!  Only ONE computer to do training on!!], the energy and the HEART in the room was in full force.   I’m excited.   

We have 5 weeks of training!  egads.   But that is OK; for me to adjust my comfort level.   We will have more volunteers than students, too, so I may not be needed immediately.     Currently, 50 students are actively receiving training of one kind or another.   Other programs in the state have the opposite program which fascinates me, too.    Lots of questions why this spot either attracts more students -or- the others fail to attract volunteers;  I don’t know the numbers either way to compare.  

I’m excited.   Cautiously optimistic, yet eager to get started.    This will be good for me to meet real 3D humans and engage in awkward conversations.   This will be worth getting out, in the dark, driving at night.   I think it will be so very worth it…