Tutor Updates

reposted from March 29, 2012

One of the best parts of our day here at the VEP office is hearing our tutors’ stories of activities and accomplishments with their students. When we talk to tutors and ask the simple question, “How is it going?” most of the time we are given a rewarding morsel of news.

Sometimes a tutor has a concern; he or she has realized a problem the student is facing and wants to help them surmount the obstacle. The sincere spirit of outreach exemplified by the tutors never ceases to amaze us. Other times, the tutor casually mentions something his/her student did which represents a true gain in literacy. The tutors also often relay stories about students thanking them and expressing gratitude with food or other gestures.

Today I called a handful of recently-matched tutors to check in now that they have been tutoring for a few weeks. Here are some of the tidbits that brightened my day:

“My student told me she went to the store and spoke to the salespeople, who actually understood her!”

“I am realizing he has no time to do homework; he works two jobs and helps his kids with their homework. He does great when we are together, but that is his only study time.”

“She tells me that the most helpful part of our lessons is the conversation. The books are good review, but talking and discussing everyday occurrences and situations has increased her confidence the most.”

“Maurice has finished the book you gave us, and he is ready for the next level! Can I stop by to get new materials?”

“Hong Su got a job, so our tutoring hours will be changing. Her English was good enough to go to an interview.”

“Shin is ready to begin the process of getting citizenship. I don’t know anything about that; can you tell me how to help him?”

So many of these reports validate our model of student-centered, goal-driven one-on-one tutoring. Nothing conveys the effectiveness of our tutoring model better than the tutors own observations. Here in the office, “behind the scenes,” we keep the engine running, but each one of our tutors is really the wheels of the machine, keeping our students in motion and making forward progress. Each story is a little miracle in our day.

by Patricia Morgioni, Program Coordinator

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“You Are Going Help Me?”

reposted from March 22, 2012

I answer the phone, and it is Stella from West Whiteland. “I need you help,” she says to me with a bubbly Spanish accent. “I find you paper and my friend tell me I can learn. Please I be in your program?” She is so happy, so hopeful, on the other end of the line. Stella wants to be a student, like the 3-4 people PER DAY who call our office or stop in to see us. I brace myself and tell Stella, compassionately, that she has called the right place, but that we have so many students on our waiting list right now that we cannot even bring her in for an appointment until three weeks from now. Even then, with 50-60 students from around the world waiting eagerly for tutors, it might take several months to place her.

Stella does not have the luxury to wait. She told me that she is from Ecuador, and that she used to be a nanny for American families; however, a close friend suffered a stroke last summer, and since then, Stella is her main care-giver. She can no longer fulfill the duties of being a nanny, and other jobs are not available to her due to her limited English skills. She needs a better job, and she wants to communicate with doctors and her community without feeling lost or misunderstood.

I schedule Stella for her intake appointment in three long weeks, and I notice how deflated her spirit sounds. After we say our goodbyes and she thanks me, I begin to hang up, but I hear Stella’s breaking voice one more time, saying, “You are going help me? You try? Please?”

Stella’s story is one in far-too-many. Sura from India moved here with her husband when he was transferred for his work, but she had to leave her 2 year old son in India so that she can complete her medical degree; however, without the English skills she needs, it is taking far too long to accomplish that goal, and her son is so far away. Grogan from Belarus was a teacher in his native country; here he struggles with English as he tries to get citizenship and make a living as a produce delivery driver. Marisella from Puerto Rico came here as a child and worked alongside her mother as a migrant worker. She married a man and had three children before he deserted her. Now she works as a maid and worries about supporting her family, communicating to the teacher, and helping the children with homework. Our office pile of “student profiles” from which tutors choose is so thick, each page telling a heartbreaking story of economic need and social struggle, of voices desperately needing to be heard.

We have the students waiting to be tutored. We have the skills to train people to teach them, the materials and lessons to guide the process. What we do not have is tutors. Please consider volunteering your time, 3 hours a week, to change a life.

by Patricia Morgioni, Program Coordinator

Introducing the Volunteer English Program Blog

reposted from March 20, 2012

We are proud to unveil the new Volunteer English Program blog: In Other Words. Some of you may recognize this title from our annual print newsletter. Sometimes, in our tutoring and in our work, we need to find “other words” to communicate. This title felt like a perfect way to convey the purpose of this blog: to give voice to the many players involved in our program, and to put into words the myriad issues of adult ESL instruction.

In these posts, you may read about tutor activities and experiences, staff perspectives, student viewpoints, board member insights, and ESL news, to name a few topics. Viewpoints and voice will vary, so you will read “other words” all the time. We invite you to join the conversation and send us a blog post inspired by your involvement with the Volunteer English Program in Chester County.