I have to be careful not to confuse the two projects that I’m working on. The assignment for this class is to come up with an lesson plan for a teacher training course that incorporates the experiential method/cycle. My IPP is becoming an evaluation of the tutoring program for the last five years that I’ve been involved with it, with interviews with the current tutors, to hopefully determine a way forward, especially in terms of training, ongoing tutor education and support, and materials available. Whew! That was the sentence that never ends. And I would like to experiment with the idea of incorporating the experiential approach into the training and ongoing support and education of tutors.
I’m so not there yet.
In the tutoring program, the last training class was held by LVECT in (I believe) early 2012. Because at least one of the tutors found that the training did not give him the confidence to tutor on his own, we instituted co-tutoring and shadowing. I also panicked at teaching absolute beginners for the first time and asked for help. We have done co-tutoring for that couple ever since (and the group varied in size over the years, so it was the closest thing to a class we had, apart from the short lived grammar girls group and the conversation groups).
LVECT basically shut down in late August 2012 (the same month my dad died). At the same time the tutoring program was heating up. The first learner connected to the Putnam Science Academy (he was a teacher studying for his GREs) came to us for help. The connection blossomed and, for a tiny tutoring program in rural Connecticut, we were getting a lot of students. We were also getting new tutors, mainly by word of mouth. But no training program. Some new practices evolved. I had a handout for new tutors. I started a wiki and collected manuals from other tutoring programs on there. I met with the coordinator of the LV program in nearby Southbridge, MA and got some advice from her. We continued to offer shadowing as an option for new teachers (with mixed results). But it always felt like we could do better. Like I could do better.
At the same time, despite my excellent TESOL training course (a SIT based program), I didn’t feel that competent as a tutor. One of the main problems was that all the frameworks that I had been taught were geared toward a conventional classroom and I didn’t know how to convert them well.
I also agreed that the LVECT training seemed insufficient. They had already lost funding at the time they were training us (summer of 2011) and had to cut down their training time. Also, they spent time teaching us an assessment program that didn’t work well for the majority of our learners. Most of our learners were, broadly speaking, intermediate level, and the assessment was geared towards assessing speaking and visual recognition skills for early beginners. It was quite specific on that level, but quite general after that.
We also worked with people who had intellectual disabilities. LVECT’s advice to “sit down with your learner, find out their goals and work out a plan from there” was really difficult because, at least with the learners I was working with then, their sense of time and abstract thinking simply didn’t work that way. It could have been my inexperience. Also LV said that they didn’t work with people with intellectual disabilities or with people with learning disabilties. Our local library had a tradition of working with people with intellectual disabilities, because the Dempsey center was right there in town and a staff member had run a tutoring program through the library. We adjusted, but still had no training on the subject. I found some articles and added them to the wiki (did I ever actually do this?). I found enough materials to suggest to one man we were co-tutoring that he might want to explore the possibility of his having dyslexia. And yes, he got outside advice and testing and found that he did have it. He moved on to someone who specialized in dyslexia, but I’m still very proud that we were able to help him.
I enrolled at SIT almost on a whim. I’m very happy I did. However, I did find myself with some of the same dilemmas I found after finishing the TESOL certificate course. How to convert theory to practice. How to convert techniques geared towards the classroom into something that would work in a volunteer tutoring program.
In the middle of the time that I was at SIT (Spring of 2015?), the main source of our ELLs went away. PSA was kind of a franchise of schools that had a majority of Turkic culture staff and students. The management decided to close this school. The staff and their families, who had been our main group of students, moved away to find other jobs. Some of our learners from the Russian/Eastern European community also moved away in search of better jobs. Other students moved on because of changes in their personal lives. (people who came and went?)
Profile of current learners:
Right now we have 4 ELL learners. 2 are an elderly couple who are studying to pass he citizenship test. (give extended profile here?) Vieng, Hong, ….possibly Anahita?
Tina, Amy – reading and math, have intellectual disabilities…
Profile of tutors:
Profile of facilities:
Background on town, other sources of community education for adults (ELLs and others)