Thursday, August 23, 2007

Update: Adult Learning

In June I began volunteering as a tutor for an adult learner who wants to get into a GED program. In order to do that, one must test at an 8Th grade equivalency, and she tested at 3rd grade.

She is smart, but she learns differently. I am not qualified to assess whether or not she has a learning disability, though I would suspect she does. Still, I am routinely amazed at how quickly her mind actually works, and how it runs ahead of her.

I only know one way to train anything - be it man or beast - and that is to define an expectation and reward it with positive response. I am tenacious to a fault, so if it takes a lifetime to instill just one learned trait in someone or something, I'm down for the challenge. Once a horse, or a dog, or a person, understands they have the capacity to achieve, they tend to be eager to try harder.

I wasn't prepared last night, however, when my student started our lesson by sharing with me some personal revelations about how her reading lessons are changing her life. She has a daughter who is repeating the second grade this year, who has struggled a bit with reading. My student told me her grandfather, who helped raise her, used to beat on her for not being able to read. She told me she felt this is what pushed her into such a fearful shell and shut her down from wanting to learn.

She said last year she was quick to dismiss her daughter when she sought her for help with her homework, because she was embarrassed that she couldn't help her.

She said to me, "You have no idea how much you're helping me. I be telling my friends and my sister that my teacher be learning me good!" (OK, one hurdle at a time.) She said, "I am reading with her at home and helping her and just like you do with me when she be getting flustrated, I just say 'Missy, take a deep breath girl and let it go, you don't have to solve the puzzle tonight, let's just go back to something simple."

Her daughter is apparently really responding to her mother's assistance and is doing very well with her lessons this year. And my student told me her sister and other peers who have volunteered to help her daughter are a bit jealous that she has been able to say, "No, I can help her."

Whatever she is doing at home is working. Her reading is rapidly improving. And she is using strategies that we've worked on together, so I know she is learning.

I must admit there are nights when the last thing I feel like doing after a bear of a work day is going to tutor, but her progress is important to both me AND her. And as long as it's important to her, I will be there to help.

1 comment:

citydog said...

Wow. That's a wonderful thing. Good on yer. ;)