I’ve been asked this question throughout my teaching career. Let’s start with the word, inspire. To inspire is to encourage, motivate, to empower. It is the ability to share knowledge, share love, share compassion, to share a part of you to help someone else. For me, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to adults is my passion. It inspires me to help people learn English, and empower them to use the language in accomplishing their personal or professional goals. I love helping people in general, and I believe through education, I am able to do just that. Helping people is a self-less act.
I wanted to get some perspective about what it takes to teach or help people from a different point-of-view. I had the pleasure of interviewing, Alisha. She is from Vancouver, Canada and is a volunteer tutor with the Vancouver School Board Reading Coach program and the Big Sisters of Canada Tutoring program. This is her story.
What kind of tutoring do you do?
The type of tutoring that I am currently involved in is the Vancouver School Board Reading Coach program and the Big Sisters of Canada Tutoring program. The VSB Reading Coach program requires me to target ESL/ELL students that are immigrants or refugees that have recently arrived to Canada with little to no English skills. The program’s main goal is to improve these kids ability to read English and comprehend what exactly they are reading, as well as to carry out a basic conversation in English. I have been trained to use games, and various ESL techniques to help the children expand their capabilities.
The Big Sisters of Canada Tutoring program targets young, at-risk girls because they are seen to be the highest at academic failure. This program’s main goal is to give a little girl (a-k-a “little sister”) an older female role model (a-k-a “big sister”) who she can look up to, and talk about her academic fears and goals at improving her education. This program has made me change how I tutor. Some days we play educational games. Other days me and my ‘little sister” do worksheets, or just draw and talk about what is going on in her life. This program is about empowering the little girl and helping build her self-confidence rather than just tutoring her. I tutor my “little sister” in areas such as math, spelling, grammar, reading, etc. The subjects I tutor her in range from week to week, as she has trouble with different things, and doesn’t like to stick to a single subject. She gets bored very fast. On days that my little sister feels like she can’t concentrate I quickly improvise and make up a game or bring something with me to pass the time with her.
What are the age group of the people you help?
The kids I currently tutor are from ages 10 to 17.
Why did you become a volunteer?
Although, I am currently doing these two types of tutoring programs I have actually been tutoring since the age of 13. I naturally had a knack for explaining things to my younger cousins and brother, and this spread to my peers especially when I was in college taking advanced physics and college math courses. One friend told me I would make a great tutor, and just decided to apply to volunteer and tutor kids.
Growing up, I did not have anyone to look up to who acted as a role model that encouraged me in my academic pursuits. Due to this lack of role model in my life, I had always failed at school. My peers, teachers, as well as some family members, labelled me as having a learning disability. I grew up in a toxic environment that belittled my self-worth and confidence. This low self-worth and lack of confidence reflected in my schoolwork, and as a result, I lacked self- efficacy in all aspects of my life.
I eventually had gotten tired of feeling bad for myself while in college. I decided that if I didn’t believe in myself, that would be the only thing that will hold me back, not the opinions of other teachers and family members around me. I got my act together and worked hard. I met teachers in college who actually cared, and saw an improvement in my mood and grades! I realized that the single reason I was failing at my academics was due to my behavior and negative mindset, and knew that I could achieve anything if I persisted and ignored those who tried to put me down. When I gained this newfound confidence, I ached to help those who were struggling in school as I was, and I wanted to help show them that anything is possible if you truly believed in yourself. I wanted to be the change in the world that allowed a child to go to school and feel like someone cared about their progress and their ability to succeed. I craved to give others what I had lacked when I was younger.
What inspires you to teach or help others?
What inspires me to help is seeing that children in third world countries not having the same access to education and basic needs like water, food, shelter, clothing, etc. This makes me want to reach out and help in any way I can. My culture is very patriarchal and misogynistic of girls acquiring a higher education. The expectation is by a young age, females are to be married and raise a family. They are discouraged from going to school. I was lucky to be born in a first world country where I have a mother that encouraged me, and paid for me to go to school. Specifically, I want to help young girls who might be going through a misogynistic patriarchal social system. I want these girls to break free and deny stereotypes and gender roles of what a real woman should or should not do.
What inspires me to teach is seeing people not having access to education due to their biological makeup. This makes me realize that I have lived a sheltered, privileged life. It is people like me, who are privileged, who should use their efforts in places where people have had their voices taken away from them, and are being stepped on by those who wield greater power. I believe that if you are able to help anyone in need, you should always do that. You can only change the world by reaching out to another, making a connection and showing someone, you are there to support his or her journey in life. Going to school is a universal human right not only a man’s right! Thus, if I can help a young girl in a situation like this in any way or help her gain confidence in her academic ability, than I would die happy.