Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Semester of Service

As the semester winds down and final exams get closer, it is still hard for me to believe that I have almost survived my first few months as a college freshman. Sometimes it seems like the first semester has gone by so fast. But when I stop and think, I realize how much I have gone through and how much I have grown as a person. Not only have I reflected on my own life and experiences in the past few months, but I have gained a grater perspective of the community around me. Being a part of this service learning course is such an enriching experience. We are not just reading about the social issues; instead, we go out every week and interact with those who have lived most of their adult life illiterate. We are the ones helping these people earn their education.
My leaner, T, has shown tremendous growth since her first day at CFL. She has learned so much already that it makes me very excited for the second half of the year. I can’t wait to see how she impresses me next. I have seen a change in her in both the way she interacts with me as her tutor and the way she approaches problems. In the beginning, T was apprehensive to ask questions. She never really stopped me to tell me that she didn’t understand what I was saying. Now, I have accommodated to this and I make sure to ask if she understands what I am trying to explain as we go along in the material. I have noticed that she is not afraid to ask questions anymore. The last few sessions, she will stop me and ask questions like “does this mean I do this step every time the fraction is an even number?” She has shown me that she is not just taking what I say and putting it on the paper. Instead, she listens and thinks about what I say and how this applies to other problems.
About three weeks ago, I noticed a change in T’s learning. We were working through fraction problems, specifically reducing fractions to lowest terms. This was something that she had struggled with early on, but I saw how much she has improved. So far, each problem had taken a little longer to do because she took many steps to get to this final answer. But, this week she skipped all of the intermediate steps and proudly said the answer. I was amazed that she did not need to take the little steps in between anymore. I told her how great this was and her confidence was immediately boosted. She now enjoys tackling these harder fraction problems because she can arrive at the final answer quicker and more easily. I have enjoyed not only seeing her excel and being a part of her improvement, but also seeing how proud she is when she gets the answer to a hard problem correct.
Besides the improvement in her learning, T has also opened up to me about herself and her family. The first day that we met, she did not really talk that much about her family besides the fact that she had eight kids and was pregnant. After a few sessions, T began to talk to me about her children and her husband. I was glad to hear her talk about them because I could tell that they made her very happy. Our bond has grown tremendously since the beginning because she now tells me how her children are doing. She talks to me about her daughter who is in her first year of college, what she wants to study, and how she is not enjoying where she is currently, so she wants to transfer. T also shares with me how difficult it is to be the single supporter of her family. Her husband cannot work because of the multiple surgeries he has had on his back. I can tell this is very hard for T to deal with because his doctor said he may even need to have another surgery. I’m glad that she is now able to talk about her family and that she feels comfortable with me to tell me these things. I hope our bond continues to grow the rest of the year.
Overall, I am very impressed with T so far. The last session, I began to photocopy all of the worksheets and exercises she completed in her workbooks. I couldn’t help but be happy for her as I made copies of all of the pages she completed to document in her portfolio. When I came back from photocopying her work, I noticed her sitting at the table flipping through the pages of the workbook, admiring what she has already learned but also looking to see what is ahead. I know that she will continue to improve her skills, but what I am most exciting to see is her new-found pride and self-confidence. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Object at Service

For the past few weeks that we have been going to service, one of the objects that I look at the most is the clock. It is a simple black analog clock that is hanging on the back wall. During service, the time always seems to go by so fast. Once my learner and I get started working on the exercises in her books, I am always so surprised by how great she does. I don’t even realize how much time has passed and that we should move from math to writing. Planning the sessions, I always need to be aware of the time so that my leaner can get the most out of the three hours a week that we meet. I want to plan my lessons in the most efficient way possible, but also make sure that we either mix games into the work we are doing or take breaks and just talk.
All of the learners at CFL are here to improve their reading, writing, and math skills. Although I cannot speak for every learner, many of them are probably here because they were pushed along in the school system and dropped out of school. For whatever reason they did not complete their education, it has limited their opportunities in life. They have had to adapt to living in a world where they can’t read or understand everything they see. Years passed and as adults they still did not have the proper education. The hardest part is that they cannot get this time back. Instead, each of them is here today to learn and make up for the time they lost unable to read and write to their full potential.
I have also begun to realize how important time is in my learner’s life. She has a very busy schedule and has to get up at 5 am every morning. She barely gets to go home after her day at work before coming to CFL. So I know that this is very important for her and she shows a lot of dedication. She has to take care of eight children and is the only supporter of her family because her husband is unable to work. He has had three surgeries on his back for a medical condition that has prevented him from having a job. As I have been getting to know my learner better I am realizing that she truly is a selfless person, as a mother and a wife. My learner does not get much time to relax or take a break because she has to take care of her children and her husband. She doesn’t get time for herself. Everything that she does is for someone else. That is what makes her time spent as CFL so important and I hope to make the most of it in the next year.