Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Time to 'Tackle' English

Teaching is harder than I thought. (Wait for all of the teachers out there to collectively say 'duh').

I knew tutoring ESL would be challenging, I just had no idea how ill-prepared I would be. When I headed over to Highland Thursday, I met Rich Trice, an English teacher at Lakeland High School who is also the instructor for the Adult Basic Education classes and ESL program.

After chatting with him for a bit, he led me to three women who had emigrated from Eastern Europe. The women, all middle-aged, were at varying levels.

One had been here for more than twenty years, and can speak fine, but wants to improve spelling. Another can speak fairly well, but has a hard time recalling words when she needs them. The third needs help in both, but conversation is key.

Before we started with actual work, we chatted. I wanted to get to know them. I asked where they were from, what they do and what they need help with.

I also asked them if they had any questions from the assignment they had been given, and one of the women asked me what "tackle" meant.

"Well, it can be used as a football term," I said, followed by a demonstration. "It's also a verb for when I want to work on a difficult project. I will tackle this assignment and get it done," I added, while I pantomimed by writing furiously.

Then, being a transplant Yooper, I said, "Tackle can also be a fisherman's term. Like, a bunch of lures."

Here, I had went wrong. After describing lures, I went to the board and drew out a fish with hooks.
"See, the bunches of lures is makes tackle."

Then I looked at the full list of words. All of the words were active verbs dealing with sports. Great. Had I confused them more than helping them?

To get the conversation going again, I had two of the women talk to me about their holiday traditions, while having the one who needs spelling help write about it. I was able to read nearly everything that was written, but I think she thought it was horrible, preferring to work on sentences.

This week, I will go back and give it another try. This volunteer stint may take a bit more time. How can I help if I am not a little consistant? It may stray a bit from the blog's original intent, but I think it's worth it.

If anyone has any advice or tips, please contact me. For those who are interested in helping out in the Highland area, please call the Adult Education office at (248) 676-8398 or email adulted@huronvalley.k12.mi.us.

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