Literacy Advance – Burned Out – 5.10

I arrived at Literacy Advance a bit early so I could meet with one of the staff to discuss Ayodele’s* lack of interest in class. We decided that it was time for Ayodele to have a new tutor and me a new student. Our relationship had become too comfortable and quite unproductive. At the end of our discussion, I noted that, depending on how my class went today, it might just be our last class.

Ayodele was 20  minutes late and had done only a sentence or two of homework. I think she could feel my frustration so I decided to come straight to the point.

“Ayodele, this is  going to be our last class. We’re only meeting every other week, and we’re not accomplishing as much as we should because of it. You’re trip to Africa is coming up in a few weeks, and I’m ready to take a break. Let’s make this our last class and when you return from your trip, you can call Literacy Advance and get put on the list for a new class.”

She cried. I felt bad about hurting her feelings, but I was tired of spinning my wheels tutoring someone who didn’t take the work as seriously as I did. I’m burned out and will be taking a break from tutoring all together.

* Name changed to protect the student’s identity.


Literacy Advance – Patterns – 5.9

Ayodele* has been in the habit of calling Literacy Advance every other week to say she can’t meet. After the discussion of the new Time and Attendance Policy last week, I expected her to change her pattern. Unfortunately, she didn’t. We didn’t meet.

* Name changed to protect the student’s identity.

Literacy Advance – New Attendance Policy – 5.8

It’s interesting how the world works. After posting last week’s story about my frustrations with Ayodele*, I received a Literacy Advance newsletter announcing a new Time and Attendance Policy. How timely is that!

When I arrived at Literacy Advance this morning, I had time to discuss the new policy with a staff member, K*, before meeting with Ayodele. K explained the new policy and gave me a copy.

Ayodele arrived and, as always, I asked to see her homework. She didn’t do it…again. I told her before we started our lesson this morning, we needed to go over a new Time and Attendance Policy. The pertinent issue for her is attendance. The new policy indicates if there are five absences, excused or not, the student may be asked to leave. I showed Ayodele our attendance list and it already had three absences for this session, and that didn’t even count those that weren’t documented.

I told her I was concerned that when she left for Africa (which will be as soon as she gets her travel documents), she’d miss more classes and be asked to leave. She is planning to be gone for two months and thought she could simply let the staff know and we would put our sessions on hold. She doesn’t want to be asked to leave. I suggested we discuss this with a staff member.

I asked K to join us and explained Ayodele’s concerns. Our talk resulted in the following: When Ayodele leaves for her two-month trip to Africa, she will leave the program. When she returns, she will call Literacy Advance and be put on the waiting list; at the top of the list because she’s an ongoing student. She will be matched with a new tutor.

I will be taking a break when Ayodele leaves for Africa and will be deciding what I want to do. I’m not sure if I want to continue tutoring right away or search for a new volunteer activity. I have learned a great deal through my volunteer work with Literacy Advance and don’t want to give it up. However, I do want to spread my wings and see what else is out there for me.

* Names changed to protect the student’s and staff member’s identity.

Literacy Advance – The Class That Didn’t Happen – 5.7

I’m frustrated with Ayodele*. For the past several months, she has called every other week to tell me she can’t meet for our tutoring session. Her reasons are always valid; she’s worked an overnight shift and is too tired to come to class, or she’s still on her shift and obviously can’t make it. She doesn’t work regular shifts, so her work is difficult to schedule. She also hasn’t been doing any homework in between classes. 

Coming to class every other week and learning for three hours, with no work in between, means she isn’t learning anything. There has been such an absence of commitment that she has made no progress. In fact, she has backsliding at an alarming rate. This cannot continue.

I am going to take the blame for this because if the student isn’t learning one must first take a look at the teacher. I’m looking and don’t like what I see. I have allowed Ayodele to continue her habits for far too long. At first, my thinking was, “She forgot to do her homework, she’ll do it next time.” or “Give her a break, she has to work when they call her.” However, I’ve come to realize her lack of commitment isn’t only affecting her, it’s affecting me and other potential students I could have who are motivated to learn.

Ayodele has lofty goals…getting her GED, passing the Citizenship Exam, and more…and she isn’t going to meet any other them at the rate we’re moving. We need to talk.

* Name changed to protect the student’s identity.

Literacy Advance – The Truth, The Whole Truth, Nothing But The Truth – 5.6

I hadn’t seen Ayodele” since mid-December and looked forward to our session today. We haven’t met because of the holiday break and I hoped she remembered our meeting.

We caught up for a while and she brought up the subject of truth. She said when she calls home and asks her daughter a question, the daughter answers in a way that will please her mother. However, her son, who was born and raised in the U.S. until he was five, tells the absolute truth.

She said the African culture has a different perspective on answering questions. You answer questions to please. That’s they way it is in families, in business and in government. Ayodele thinks it’s better to tell the truth even if it’s not something the asker wants to hear.

At her bakery job, her supervisor asks her group to tell her if there is something that could be done better. She reminds them that she doesn’t know everything and that she can learn from then. However, telling her there is nothing wrong, or nothing can be improved, when it can be improved, serves no purpose. Ayodele admires that and tells it like it is. I like that too!

* Name changed to protect the student’s identity

Literacy Advance – Daisy – 5.5

Many times during our weekly lessons, we come across “Tell a story about _______. Your teacher will write it for you.” This usually makes Ayodele* laugh because she think I have to do all the work.

This story, about a dog named Daisy, made me laugh. In fact, I can’t get the picture out of my mind!

“Her name was Daisy. Daisy was a good dog. I knew Daisy since I was small. She was part of our family. Then one time my auntie had a baby, Thomas. She left me and Thomas in the house and went to the grocery store. Thomas took a nap. When he woke up he crawled out on the veranda, where Daisy was nursing her newborn puppies. Thomas was hungry so he joined them. When I went outside I saw Thomas nursing with the puppies. I was scared. When my auntie got home I told her what happened. She said Thomas would be fine.”

* Name changed to protect the student’s identity.

Literacy Advance – Hopes and Dreams – 5.4

Ayodele* and I started a new textbook today. This book will help her learn to read stories and poems, to understand what she’s read, and to sequence what she’s read. We’ll also begin to study short vowels.

The first story we read was about hopes and dreams. It basically mirrored Ayodele’s hopes and dreams. She told me that here, in America, you have to know how to read and write to do anything, even survive. Back in Africa, it helps to read and write, but it’s not necessary.

Ayodele has big hopes and dreams. She wants to get her citizenship and go to college. She wants to bring her husband and children to the US where they can all have a better life. We have such a long way to go that it’s hard to see the end. Sometimes it feels almost impossible. That’s when I remind myself that we have to focus on the short-term goals. Baby steps, that’s all we can do.

* Name changed to protect the student’s identity.