Saturday, April 21, 2007

Not too sure

I went to the first of two training sessions for Literacy Plus, a program that trains and matches tutors with adult non-readers. The training was from 9am to 4pm and we had a half-hour lunch. The trainer asked a few times if we wanted to take a break, but we all (nine women) declined, and I know this is because all of us were stressed out because the trainer kept saying how she was behind and was only giving us three or four minutes to do the exercises. We weren't a particularly chatty group, either. I think they either need to re-examine what they want us to learn in 13 hours or they need to make a more realistic schedule.

Anyway, I'm not sure I want to do it. I am feeling overwhelmed. Among the things we discussed today were learning styles (such as reading, writing, listening, moving) and examples of different teaching methods; the material we may have to cover with a given student ("when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking" and word families); and how to check reading comprehension, just for starters.

I'm also feeling some anxiety about the actual pairing and teaching part. Do I really want to teach? I'm not very patient, and I grew up in a pretty demanding educational environment.
The experience I've had with the Homework Help program has bored me at times and I must admit sometimes I feel judgmental toward "the schools," like the time I was doing long division with a child who didn't seem to know how to multiply. I said something about the long division thing to the trainer today, during a private conversation - for all I know she's already thinking I am not a suitable candidate to be a Literacy Plus tutor.

Now that I've taken one whole day of the two-day training I'm already feeling kind of obligated to follow through and be a tutor. They ask for a six-month commitment and generally I feel like I can do anything for six months (though I've been proven wrong a couple times), and the tutoring commitment is only one or two days a week, not five.

Because I was thinking about this, the best part of the training today was when two tutor/student pairs came in to talk about their experiences and to answer questions. Both tutors have been working with Literacy Plus for about three years and both students had been in the program for about a year; everyone praised the LP staff and each other, and the students expressed a lot of gratitude for the program. I asked the question so all four could answer: What did you feel uncertain about when you started tutoring or started the program?

The first tutor answered with what I know I wanted to hear. She said that she didn't think she would be good enough, that she would do something wrong, and that she would let her students down. Then she went on to say that the students "are so hungry to learn" that you can't really let them down, because anything you teach them is something they want to know. The second student said that she was so excited to start learning that she hadn't slept the night before her first tutoring session. In that way, I suppose, it is really different than compulsory education; no one is forcing these students to come into the program, and I know that it is easier and more interesting to teach an engaged learner.

At the moment I am still undecided, however.

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