by Sarah Moauro
Normally, the route that students take to SPAN 332 is by enrolling first in SPAN 232: Spanish in the Community. This class, as many of you know, involves learning how to work within our community while volunteering in the same organizations for SPAN 332. However, I chose a slightly different route. I had signed up for SPAN 232 and a volunteer position, but for a number of reasons, I realized early on that the actual classroom setting was not going to cooperate with the rest of my schedule. I had to drop the class, but luckily I was able to keep my volunteering position.
Although SPAN 232 is a prerequisite for SPAN 332, my volunteer experiences were able to let me bypass the classroom requirement. Roughly twice a week (sometimes more or less, depending on the crazy schedules that so nicely come along with being a student), I spent an hour at Champaign Central High School helping English as a Second Language (ESL) students with their homework. About 4 or 5 of us, all college students-turned tutors, would come in and based upon the needs of students, decided what subject we wanted to work on that day. Although my college studies seem to dwarf my high school workload in terms of difficulty, let me tell you – relearning some of those 9th through 12th grade subjects were not a cake walk. International politics I can handle; advanced foreign language phonetics I can handle; calculus I can handle. But triangle proofs? Proper food safety? Basic biology? These were subjects that I know I had once had a grip on, but faced with a kid depending on me, I felt like an amateur.
The first few days threw me off a bit. There was a lot of me asking for a book or notes and a lot of “Pienso que es correcto, pero no estoy segura…” From talking to my fellow tutors, I wasn't the only one in this boat. However unsure I was in the help I was giving, each day kids kept eagerly coming to us for help. Our help, even when not completely solid at times, was huge to the kids. Even when I had to relearn the material off of their notes, I was helping the kids. As we went step by step through problems, they were able to get a better understanding, and I was able to point out where they were going wrong in their initial comprehension. A lot of the times, these kids didn’t need to be taught at all – they really just needed someone to reassure them that they were doing things right.
In the end, my work as a tutor at Champaign Central was a great experience. I was able to help the kids while learning about teaching and more so about the community that I’ve been a part of for the last four years. Before then, I had no idea just how international the C-U was outside of the University population. Within that one high school classroom, there were kids from Mexico, Guatemala, the Congo, Vietnam, and Korea among various others – before then, I had no idea that there was such diversity in central Illinois! My experiences gave me a taste of the impact and connections made through our Spanish and Illinois programs, and led me to signing up for SPAN 332 in hopes to get more deeply involved.