Saturday, March 10, 2007

Tutoring at the jail

I always notice the walruses on the Arctic Hotel in downtown Seattle, near the King County Jail where I tutor students once a week. Of all the things I do in my daily life, this is the most rewarding, life-affirming, and compelling. It's trite to say, but I surely get at least as much out of the experience as do my students.

Students taking GED classes at the jail can request a tutor to support their learning in the classroom. The wide range of skill levels in the classroom makes it difficult, if not impossible, to meet the needs of each student who may have dropped out of school in 8th grade or 11th grade, may have a learning disability, or may not be a native English speaker.

As we reviewed algebra and geometry topics this week, my current student, Leonardo (not his real name), exclaimed that he had a formula to share with me. He then proceeded to teach me the Pythagorean theorem. He even spelled 'Pythagorean' without a hitch. Leonardo is also a gifted poet and prolific reader, curious about spirituality, psychology, and African-American history. As a librarian, I also work with community college students, and have worked with a rather entitled, self-assured lot at the University of Washington. But I have never met more earnest, hard-working, and curious students as those I have had the honor to work with at the jail.

I volunteer through Literacy Source, a wonderful organization in Seattle that serves adult learners in a variety of ways. As you might imagine, the demand for tutors is larger than the supply. Those of us in the blogosphere are blessed with abilities than we might take for granted, but with a relatively small time commitment, we can share our blessings with others and have impacts that we can only begin to imagine. If you're even remotely interested in learning more, please contact Literacy Source or your local literacy organization.