We invited ALTA tutors to share their adult literacy volunteer experience and continue our series of articles that capture these candid discussions. In this segment, ALTA tutor Nicole Pichery and fellow volunteer Joseann Jemmott speak about the ALTA student experience.
Nicole: What has been the student experience in the ALTA classroom?
Joseann: From the get go, or the jump as the young people would say, it’s about showing them open handedness and sharing stories. As the tutor, we lead the way in expressing why we chose ALTA and how dedicated we are to teaching and to learning. Students feed off of that energy. They also share their own stories of how or why their ALTA journey began. And when we start sharing, we open this mutual rapport – we understand that we are all in this together. Students then feel free to come and say, “Miss, this is an area that I really, really need more work on.”
Nicole: Sharing stories is important. Do you remember any stories that really touched you?
Joseann: There are many stories, but at the core is often a lack of support and the need to overcome fear. We always hear “I always wanted to come to ALTA, but I was ashamed” or “I was afraid” or “I didn’t want this one to know.”
When I hear them say, “I decided today and I just walk in.” I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so happy for you” and we give them a round of applause because they are jumping over a huge hurdle to step into that ALTA classroom. So, we hype them up as much as possible to let them know that we are here for them.
Nicole: I love that when they come in, you are there to support them and give them that encouragement. That in itself can improve their self-esteem and their self-worth, because we hear so many stories, especially about shame. We see students very hesitant to step in the door, so much so that tutors have to encourage them to come in.
One of the things that I’ve recognized with my students, Joseann, is that when they come in, they are afraid to talk to each other and afraid to speak and they speak very softly. Once they recognize that some of the other students in class have the same challenges that they do, they tend to open up. Has that been your experience in your level one classroom?
Joseann: Yes. My classroom is a welcoming space where returning students encourage new students when they come in. It’s like, “Hey, sit here”, “Don’t go so far”, “You don’t need to go to the back”, “Come to the front”. They encourage each other and it’s really just one day of shyness. By the next class, everybody’s just talking and getting to know each other.
Nicole: You break the ice very early. And as we mention breaking the ice, one of the things that we have in the classroom is games. Tell us something about the student experiences when it comes to the ALTA games.
Joseann: The games complement the teaching in previous lessons. I tend to make it really competitive because I’m a competitive tutor. So, we will have an “A” side and we will have a “B” side where we have the other tutor choosing the “B” side and we will see who will get it first. There are some exciting card games that complement the lessons well, like Snatch and Bingo.
Nicole: I like that you mentioned Bingo because we also play Word Bingo in our beginner classroom and that is something that they love. You call out the sight word, they look for it and cover it if their card has the word, and then they shout out “BINGO” when they cover all the words on their card.
Joseann: Oh yes, they need to shout bingo! They need to be loud in my class. Games help build their confidence. It’s always “Next time you can beat me” or “I’ll win next time.” It’s nice to have a little picong in the classroom and also strive to win the game. In order to win, you also need to learn.
Nicole: It’s amazing to see how excited our students get and we know that ALTA really stresses the importance of playing games to reinforce learning in the ALTA classroom. So, it’s a really exciting time when the formal lessons have come to an end and it’s game time.
Nicole and Joseann’s chat continues next week.
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