Sunday, April 08, 2007

Wherein I Update You on My Challenges for the Year, So As to Have Something to Write

My life has been fairly routine lately, but I thought I'd update you on my challenges for the year.

My yoga class has come and gone. And while there were times I felt out of place and out of my element, it was beneficial for me (and my neck/back).

And I have now been tutoring for a few months now. My training course ended in mid-January. The last evening was to be held at the St. Joseph County Public Library. I had been there a couple times previous with Eric, but it had been several months. And I thought I knew where I was headed. Alas, my instincts are not to be trusted. After I eventually realized I was quite mistaken, I asked for directions and showed up noticeably late.

The very next evening was to be my first tutoring meeting with my student. And, knowing my ill luck with directions, I even printed some off although I had been there not even 24 hours previous. Wouldn't you believe it, that there was an accident due to the weather and to allow the tow truck to remove a car, traffic was diverted onto side streets. I couldn't tell how to return to my route, so I called Eric in desperation and begged him to call the library and inform them that I would be late. Eric did so, guided me with directions, and I finally showed up fifteen minutes late. Not exactly the first impression I was going for.

The library had noted my message, and when I arrived informed me that my student had not yet shown up. My relief was short lived, however, as it turns out he had been patiently waiting near our chosen destination. The initial meeting went famously, in spite of my lateness.

We are about the same age and he is here with his wife, both who hail from Venezuela. She is expecting their first child any day, which will result in a temporary sabbatical from our sessions.

Since then, we have been meeting two evenings a week, practicing reading aloud (Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning), writing, and pronunciation issues. We've taken to TOEFL exercises, as he would like to do some Masters work in the States. And I've certainly noticed a marked improvement since we started.

Two early exercises we tackled were the rules dictating how to pronounce words ending in -ed and how to pronounce words ending in -s/-es. For native English speakers who didn't know there was a difference, notice how the endings of the following words differ: jumped (-t sound), wanted (-id), listened (-d), watches (-iz), sleeps (-s), and boys (-z). Now imagine trying to decipher when to pronounce words a certain way without knowing the rules for doing so. Quite the daunting task. We approached -ed rules first, and I must say I was astounded when the next time we met my student knew the rules when given new words. He had moved beyond memorizing the rules to ably applying them with no hesitation. Had the situation been reversed, I certainly don't think I could have performed as well without decided pauses as I tried to visualize which camp any given word belonged to.

Planning and tutoring take a certain amount of my free time, but it is nice to return to some measure of teaching again. I like being beholden to others during some of my free time, as otherwise I'm sure I'd squander the time. It's also good for me to look beyond myself and not selfishly hoard my free hours. I felt lost during the evenings and weekends before tutoring, as I had so much time before me and no good ways to structure it. I'm not wired for such a life. Some leisure: wonderful; too much: laziness sets in.

No comments: