Speaking of volunteers …
Date posted: April 16, 2018
Today we are pleased to welcome Chrisy Hill, Community Literacy Coordinator for the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy – Elk Valley, as a guest blogger. She describes and acknowledges the work of a special volunteer tutor in her community.
Did you know that volunteering is a responsibility as a Canadian citizen? We don’t often think about how much we volunteer. When my husband was interviewed for his Canadian citizenship, he was asked what volunteering he had done. At first, he didn’t think he had volunteered at all until he was forced to come up with answer. He then realized he had helped set up events, supported locals in need, and other small contributions that added up to a lot. Volunteers are a wonderful part of our country. As a Community Literacy Coordinator, I rely a great deal on volunteers. I’m not sure they realize how significant their contribution is to the life of a literacy learner.
Lori Bradshaw is one of those special volunteers who will stop at nothing to help a learner. She is a retired teacher who assumed that because she is Canadian and had the opportunity for an excellent education, that other Canadian adults did too. She thought the rate of literacy challenges for adults born and educated in Canada was near zero. When she started thinking more about it, she realized there are many adults who have unrealized aspirations, and literacy of one type or another plays a considerable role in this.
There are many barriers that people don’t often think about. An Entry test can be one of these barriers. If someone would like to take a class at the local college, they will probably have to take an entry test of some nature. Lori experienced an admission requirement to enter the Faculty of Education. She was insecure and didn’t complete the entrance requirements. She struggled but worked long and hard with tutors and mentors. It was another ten years before she became a teacher! Lori understands the intimidation and frustration literacy learners face with such barriers. She also understands that with help and support these barriers can be overcome.
Lori loves helping people learn new skills. This passion is what motivated her to volunteer with adult learners at CBAL. “I expected the pupils to learn from me, but I can honestly say I learn something from them every time we meet.”
“I love the challenge of providing real-life meaning to the goals and objectives of each learner.” Lori explains how important it is to focus on the learner’s interest and personal goals. “I want to provide them with meaningful knowledge that they will use in daily life. Then hopefully, their desire to learn will increase, they will get practice without doing “homework” and their goals will be achieved.”
At first tutoring at CBAL was difficult for Lori. Because of her experience as a teacher in schools, colleges, and universities, she assumed the learners would be what she considered “more motivated”, ready to do daily or at least weekly “homework”, ready to take in her every word. “And they were, but not in the same way I expected.” She explains, “My expectations and understanding has since changed because of what they have taught me.”
Adult learners have jobs, families, and responsibilities; schooling or education is not their full-time “job” like it is for young school students. Lori soon adapted her strategies. She decided to become more creative in ensuring her learners used their new skills between tutoring sessions. One method that worked well was to teach a person needing more practice at reading and writing to send and receive text messages. Learners also responded well to reading and creating posts on Facebook. This new skill was motivating and has provided not only the needed practice but opened them up to a new world of communication, with friends, relatives and others that they seldom spoke to. Writing a text message is much more relevant and interesting to her learners than writing something the “teacher” assigns on a piece of paper.
“I have also found using other technology applications (APPS) provides learners with many ways to learn a skill. I find that many adults enjoy using the technology and are much more motivated than doing the same type of activity in a book or on a piece of paper,” says Lori. “The APPS also give them constant feedback and reinforcement that they seem to revel in.”
“Tutoring is rewarding in so many ways, it keeps me sharp and forces me to be creative to achieve the maximum results with each learner.”
Without volunteers like Lori Bradshaw, organizations such as CBAL would struggle to meet the needs of the community and the community would miss out on the wonderful talents of many of its residents who need a little extra time and understanding to be able to shine.
Thank you to volunteers everywhere!