Methma is a Volunteer Representative for Swearer Tutoring and Enrichment in Math and Sciences (STEMS). As a VR, Methma helps plan weekly meetings for the tutors, which are intended to provide Brown tutors with tools to work more effectively, through tutoring skills, knowledge of current education policy, discussions on the role of a tutor in a classroom, or information about the Providence Public School system. She is currently tutoring in a physics class.
How Much We All Share
Children, college students, and adults of mixed ages from places like Guatemala, Florida, Cambodia, and Minnesota gather twice a week to learn with and from each other at the MET High School in Providence. Some have lived in Rhode Island for decades, others only a handful of months. There are as many differences as similarities in the room, but everyone can come together over macaroni and cheese, chicken noodle soup, or rice and beans. Bursts of laughter occasionally interrupt the various conversations filling the room, as one small boy plays a prank and a student acts out a sports game play-by-play.
The MET Family Literacy Program offers ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes to adult immigrants in the MET’s catchment area. Some adult learners return to the program over several semesters, some Brown students stay just as long. Over the months and years connections are made and friendships form. This is only be second semester with the program, and already I experience such joy when one of my former learners walks through the door. The program is designed to be accessible to all who are interested, and newcomers are welcome as we bring together a diverse group of student volunteers and adult learners.
At 6:00 everyone begins to move to classrooms scattered throughout the building. Classes are driven by learners’ needs, strengths, interests and abilities. We use authentic materials (such as supermarket ads, utility bills, and newspapers, in order to engage learners with reading they may experience everyday) and approaches – listening to learners, finding out where they use English in their daily lives, for what purposes and in what contexts – to design and deliver classes that engage them in using all four skills areas: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Each class is unique, and listening in I can overhear music, skits, and games.
With many differences between our learners and our volunteers I often consider their similarities, and what brings us all together night after night. Adult learners come to the program to acquire and strengthen language skills, perhaps to communicate more effectively at work, or to interact with a child's teacher with greater ease. Some come to build confidence to interact with neighbors, co-workers, medical providers and others in the community, some to try structured learning for the first time in a new country. No matter their level of English, they share a desire to learn, and eagerness to grow.
Equally passionate are our Brown volunteers, who, energized by their work, buzz with conversation and ideas as they climb onto the bus. On the ride home we like to take time to share a learning moment from the day, and I am always pleased to hear instances where the volunteers are learning from their students, about the culture of the Dominican Republic, about parenting, about the best restaurants in Providence, and overcoming difficulties.
As I sit and participate in our dinner time interactions, I notice how rare it is to be in a room filled with so many passionate and dedicated individuals, coming together after a long day for a meal and a lesson. Looking around we can all seem so different from each other, but if I look a little harder, it is easy to see how much we all share.
June 20, 2016
June 13, 2016"I think about opening my mouth to call out goodbye, or to salute her in a traditional sign language farewell. Instead, I stand silently and smile."
Sally Hosokawa is a Community Fellow for Writers’ Group, a Swearer Center Community Program that facilitates creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities. She studies literary translation in the Comparative Literature Department.
May 14, 2016“Club teachers understand us,” she says. “Even though they’re older, they’re not that much older, and so they’re like us and we can identify with them and talk to them about our problems.”
Addy is a volunteer with the Brown Elementary Afterschool Mentoring Program (BEAM), a Swearer Center community partnership that facilitates after-school programing activities and mentorship between Brown volunteers and students at William D’Abate Elementary School in the Olneyville neighborhood.
February 22, 2016
Pia is a junior double-concentrating in Education Studies and Comparative Literature. This is her third year with Writers' Group, a Swearer Center Community Program that offers creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities, and her first year as a Swearer Center Community Fellow.
February 19, 2016I was intrigued by the program, but very intimidated by some of the topics. I’ve never been in the position to talk about gender or sexuality or rape culture.
Tiara came into Brown dead set on studying Neuroscience. After a summer or working with the local Planned Parenthood branch and taking health based classes she realized public health was her real calling. She has been volunteering for the SHAPE (Sexual Health Advocacy through Peer Education) program since sophomore year.
February 16, 2016