After learning more about adult illiteracy, I decided to start tutoring an adult learner. I signed up with the Adult Literacy League and was quickly assigned to a student who had been on the waiting list for some time. My past service experience has been limited to working in my church, after school programs, tutoring computer classes, but predominantly with children and young adults. Needless to say, I was nervous for my first meeting. I ended up chatting with several of my friends who are educators, and colleagues who have worked with adult learners. Where would I start? How do I manage not to belittle his intelligence and not assume that he knows certain things? Should I design this first meeting based on his intake form? What’s a realistic timeline to reach his overall goal of getting a GED?
Since there were so many different questions, I took some advice from one of our trainings: don’t plan a lesson. I decided that I would just talk to my student and get to know him. After all, the goal is to build a relationship. I brought the materials I received from ALL to the library so he could see what we are going to be working with. Once he showed up, I just asked him to tell me a little bit about himself. We went back and forth explaining our strengths and weaknesses in learning (hopefully he doesn’t feel like I’m incompetent for acknowledging so many), what brought us to Orlando, what sort of activities we enjoy, and most importantly, the reason why he has decided to take classes and learn how to read. Through this conversation, I found out that my student is very active in his church and is looking to be a minister. GREAT! Something to work with so we aren’t bored with workbooks and that what we are doing is relevant/useful. We decided that we would use workbooks, but he would bring his own materials from church so we can work with both.
The hour ended up going by very smoothly. I started out really nervous and fidgety, but once we started talking, we both were more relaxed and comfortable. We’ll see how it goes next week when we actually start working with the material, but for right now, I feel comfortable and positive about this upcoming experience.