We invited ALTA tutors to share their adult literacy volunteer experience and continue our series of articles that capture these candid discussions. In Part 2, ALTA tutor Nicole Pichery and fellow volunteer Chela Bhimull speak about student support in the current climate.
Nicole: How would you help students overcome that fear when they sign up for ALTA classes?
Chela: The first step in helping students is allaying possible and potential fears. It’s creating a safe space in the form of a virtual classroom where interaction can flow. First of all, I like having structure. So it’s about having a system in place that allows the student to log on to the class and participate in class communication. The difference with face-to-face teaching and a virtual classroom is that you need to have a little more insight into your virtual classroom student. I mean, what can work in a physical setting where you can observe behaviour and speak individually to one student as you move around the classroom is not possible in a virtual setting.
Being a successful tutor means that you need to know your students. You have to be able to reach out to them, to recognize an issue and try to address it because there is no one size fits all – it’s about the individual. It requires dedication and selflessness at times as students face many challenging situations.
If you recognize a problem, you can start by identifying what’s going on with the individual. Is it software? Is it the internet connection? Is it the physical space they are in? Having a quiet space where you can actually receive your teaching without any sort of background disruptions was one of Alta’s recommendations to its virtual students.
Is it an issue of financial hardship? This has been an issue for some of my students. As you know, during the pandemic things were pretty rough with regard to jobs and the availability of financial assistance. So as a tutor, you need to be able to recognize what’s wrong with your students and then reach out to them to help as best you can.
At the end of the day, your best bet towards overcoming a student’s fear is kindness towards the student and sometimes an encouraging word. A listening ear is also helpful as in some instances, this is their first time in a computer literate world, that is, using a device, Zoom or WhatsApp.
Nicole: That is really good advice, especially when it comes to the matter of applying emotional intelligence, and trying to help students so that they can stay focused on their learning. Chela, you have helped us to understand the ALTA-V environment. And we thank you for taking up that challenge and working with our students in the ALTA-Virtual classroom.
Chela: Thank you and thanks to my fellow tutors for helping me on my journey.
ALTA is passionate about teaching adults to read. In their commitment to serve, they have partnered with schools, community centres, churches and libraries across Trinidad to bring literacy classes to communities, making it easy for individuals to sign up.
Covid-19 brought many challenges as well as opportunities that forced us to find new ways of helping students continue learning. This has given birth to the ALTA-V classroom. Covid-19 has thrust us unceremoniously into a new virtual teaching and learning environment.
The ALTA-V programme has adapted teaching methods to a virtual environment reaching a new student audience: those with smart devices who can now attend virtual classes using Zoom with a trained ALTA-V tutor. ALTA-V allows our students to sign up and continue learning right from the comfort of their home.
If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT