A Volunteer Literacy Program’s Successful Collaboration
Our success story comes from the personal efforts of the students attending our classes. We use as a text book, the Oxford Picture Dictionary, which has a basic and intermediate work book for activities to be performed by the students. Our classes commence at 5:30 PM and finish at 7:30 PM, however, normally the lights are turned off around 8:00 PM, because of last minute questions or some personal matters one or more of the students might want to review with the tutors. Our group has, at the present time, 12 participants of different backgrounds and come from diverse countries, such as Mexico, Honduras, Bolivia, France, and China.
Originally our meetings where held at one of the local schools, but due to not being able to give classes there when school holidays came about, we obtained permission from one local interdenominational church to use a classroom in their annex building, we have an access door key, therefore we can teach according to our own schedule. As a matter of fact, we utilize two of the classrooms, because we allow the adults to bring their children, and they get reading classes addressed to their individual age groups.
So where is the success story? It is a multiple situation. First, that along with actual continuous attendance and participation of at least nine of the students, they got employment in different local stores. Two sisters work as cooks in a local restaurant. One student got employment at one of the McDonald’s® outlets, another one at Jack-in-the-Box®. Two of the students opened their own business. Three of the students received their Citizenship, now they are Naturalized Americans; 2 more are ready to take their final review at the end of June 2008. The lady from China eight months ago did not know a single word in English, now she has a fair comprehension, and can maintain basic conversations. One student never attended school in her country, now she can read and speak, and is making great progress in learning to write. She also is in line to obtain Citizenship.
Part of their success comes from the efforts of the Tutors, some representing directly LVA, but also from contributing volunteers from the church. Originally, the one to one student suddenly grew into a group, no progress was achieved there until a basic test was given to figure out a placement level for each student. Alongside, a request was made for assisting Tutors; as they came, advanced students had the opportunity to receive one-to-one attention, and this drastically improved their know how.
In addition, one of the instructors developed a novel method to instruct the classes having the student write the English words as they hear them pronounced, but as they would write them in their native tongue, this being a great success, learning did accelerate.
Further progress is being made by a recurrent appeal to the local congregation to come and assist one or two hours, whenever they can, and the students are therefore exposed to different persons in their practice of expressing what they learned, practice and repetition makes perfect. In addition, we contacted the High School and received cooperation from students doing Social Studies, they work with the group of children, and thus being exposed themselves to the experiences of teaching.
The result we obtain from our efforts is that the parents become better citizens adhering to our culture, while we learn from theirs. Their children develop a greater perception in making their parents participants of their lives and interests, since they now are mastering the subject in English. Our society gains from these success stories, for these persons don’t become a burden to the city or state, on the contrary, they are an integral part of our daily environment.
Paul L. Murad (firstname.lastname@example.org ) has been a Tutor for more than 50 years, recently named twice Tutor of the Year by the Montgomery, Texas Chapter of Literacy Volunteers of America. Paul is also a Trainer of Tutors. Aside from his classes on a one-to-one with small children at the local schools, he teaches a group of adults, and participates in helping promote the knowledge that free help is available for anyone interested in learning to read. Paul is also an accomplished artist, recently having completed a new mural for his local church, he writes and translates books or documents; teaches art and Spanish at the Conroe Recreation Center. He mastered a program of facilitating the pronunciation of English (or any foreign language words) by using a method he calls Spanglish, this being successful in teaching to his past and current students.