Tutoring adults one-on-one is a learning experience. Though I’m a retired teacher of English Language Arts and a former speech coach, tutoring an adult from Myanmar is a challenge for me because I’m so ignorant. Yes, ignorant. Thankfully, the Literacy Center of West Michigan understands that even experienced educators, though passionate about teaching, have much to learn. It’s the reason Literacy Center required me to attend workshops on how to interact learners from an unfamiliar country who neither shares my history or culture, language or alphabet.
Each week, I explore the resources the Literacy Center provides or recommends to be ready to tutor my learner. He is eager to learn and responsive to the variety to tasks built into our time together. We usually begin with his questions. What did he experience in the past week where his current level of English has not served him well? We may discuss business mail he has received, licenses that have to be renewed, or ways to approach the pharmacist to find out what can be bought over the counter and what needs a prescription. Then, we dig into the reading and writing lessons in the Challenger Series the Literacy Center recommended based on the test scores and interview to determine the competency level the prospective learner. Thankfully, it is an accurate assessment with just enough challenge and variety to keep the lessons interesting and skills progressing. He prefers non-fiction versus fiction. But is getting into the literature more than he first thought possible.
Most useful has been access to the internet at the library where we meet. When I find it difficult to explain the connotations of a word, we enter the word in a search engine and look at images. My learner nods, “Oh, that’s what that means. By why don’t they just say...” and he’ll mention a synonym for the word we were discussing. This gives me an opportunity to talk about the history of English language that welcomes words from native Americans and immigrants from all over the world. Which leads to discussions about American history and how our country has been settled. Which leads to conversations about current events. Which leads to conversations about...
This is how I’m learning what he knows, wants to know, but most important how he learns as I teach. And, I recommend this invigorating experience to anyone who has time to plan and passion to learn. You can become an effective teacher in a program that needs your time and talent.