Monday, November 1, 2010
The first few weeks
Hello again! I was finally able to begin tutoring at Champaign Central High School about three weeks ago, and it has been both challenging and rewarding. I usually go on Monday mornings, take a break for lunch, and then return for the last two class periods in the afternoon. I’m generally headquartered in the “Learning Zone,” a separate classroom where students in the ESL program can come at any time of day to receive additional help or go just to have a quiet study space. When there aren’t any students that come down, I’m sent up to any one of a few different classes that have students who are a part of the ESL program to see if they need help with specific assignments or classroom activities.
I really do enjoy the time that I spend at Champaign Central. For one thing, I’ve discovered since coming to college that I really like working with youth (of any age, from elementary through high school). It not only reminds me that there is a world outside of campus, but also gives me a lot of hope—just to see the types of ideas and potential that many of these students have is very encouraging and makes me feel positive about the future. I especially like going to Champaign Central because the diversity and vibe of the student body reminds me a lot of my high school. It’s really easy to get caught up in campus hype and the little Illinois bubble, and so going there acts as a reality check and helps to keep me grounded.
The interactions with the students, though, are of course what every day is about. Some days I’ll speak almost exclusively in Spanish; others days only in English. What surprised me most right away was that there is a significant population of students from the Congo—about a dozen or so. Like all of the students in the ESL program, some have a high level of English proficiency while others have only a very basic level of understanding. It’s been most challenging to help those who are just beginning, and I can only imagine how frustrating it can be for these students. Helping them with assignments involves a lot of pointing and physically showing what they will be doing, and I’m actually trying to learn a little bit of basic French just to be able to facilitate giving instructions more easily. Even when I can fluidly communicate with students though—whether in English or in Spanish—I still sometimes feel a little lost. After all, I’m not a teacher, and I’ve never been taught how to help students reach answers on their own. I’ve discovered that each student has very different abilities and knowledge—sometimes it is just a matter of translating the material while other times they want help in how to analyze something and answer critical questions. Figuring out what each student wants and how to best help them can be challenging, but it is something that I’m working on and (hopefully!) am getting better at every time.