Jun 6, 2006

Readin' and 'Ritin' (But Not So Much 'Rithmatic)

Last night was my first night of tutor training with the Delaware County Literacy Council. After the training I'll be assigned an adult to tutor once a week for about an hour and a half. I've actually done this before, more than 20 years ago. In Philadelphia I tutored Mildred, a 45-year-old lady who worked at the Sears distribution center in the Northeast (it's since been demolished, I believe). She wanted to be promoted to supervisor, but couldn't because of her third grade reading level. So we read the newspaper together, looked at forms from her job, and went through some of the program's upper level workbooks. And she progressed two grade levels. She worked hard, arriving in Center City after a long bus ride from work, and before her next subway ride home to North Philadelphia.

Best of all, we became friends. I was not brimming with cultural sensitivity at the time, asking her dumb-ass questions like who was the father of her children, but Mildred was very patient with me. When I read about Proliteracy Worldwide a couple of months ago in a magazine, I remembered Mildred and knew I had to take up tutoring again.

On another front, plans for me to teach a 7th and 8th grade writing elective next spring at my sons' Montessori are firming up. I taught this year's class a mini-unit on autobiographical writing. First I had them read out loud a couple of pages from Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. In this passage he relates a schoolyard incident from his childhood, and deftly reveals the racial politics of the playground, and his own choice for survival at the expense of the only other black child in his class. The kids seemed to appreciate the story. Then their assignment was to write a short essay on a time when they learned something important about themselves. They wrote about the following subjects:

  • A girl finally got the courage to dive from the diving board.
  • A boy used a bow and arrow on vacation with some friends and learned that he is a good marksman.
  • A girl got her hair cut short in second grade and enjoyed being different from the other girls.
  • On a dare, a boy threw water balloons at people driving by. He claims he learned not to do it again.
  • A girl recalled her first day at preschool, at which she cried, even though she had really been looking forward to it.

Okay, so not much has happened to them yet. But at least I got some writing samples and got to see what 7th and 8th graders are like. It's a very small school, and this class had only 12 students. I'll only teach about 4 at a time, and only once a week, so classroom management will not be a huge issue. And neither will the tax implications arising from my huge paycheck. But it should be fun.


Rachel said...

I love teaching writing. It is truly my favorite thing to teach! I will be working at the PA Writing and Literature writing camp this summer and am really looking forward to it.

You should look into it - there are great one credit classes if you're interested.

Sugarmama said...

I think it sounds like great fun! I'd love to be in a position to read the writings of kids like that. Alas, I have no patience for teaching.