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.
The Humanity of Hats
Molly is a junior concentrating in History and Education Studies and a Community Fellow for the MET Family Literacy Program. She hopes to keep teaching ESOL after graduation. She can often be seen sporting a hat around campus-- feel free to ask her about it.
When Robert walked in for class that Monday evening, I didn’t give much thought to his appearance: glossy wind-pants, nondescript t-shirt, and a baseball cap proudly embroidered with a Boston Red Socks logo. I also wore a hat, emblazoned with ESPN’s “Bigger, Bolder, Better” slogan. I greeted him with my usual smile, and simple, “How are you?”
Robert, a native Portuguese speaker hailing from Brazil, is an adult participant with the MET Family Literacy Program. University student-volunteers facilitate four different levels of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes at an off-campus site, the MET Community School, two nights a week. Participants and volunteers gather for a meal before the classes start for the evening, giving plenty of time to trade jokes and stories.
I had been meaning for a while to ask if Robert felt a strong connection to the long-reaching Boston sports network, like so many of his East Coast counterparts. Previous conversations had revealed his love for country music, especially Toby Keith and Garth Brooks. I had been surprised by this, and was excited to gain another piece of Robert’s story.
I gestured first to my baseball cap, and then his own. “Nice hat!” His response was quick, the mark of a growing comfort with English: “Are you copying me?”
I grinned and asked him if he was a big sports fan. He responded enthusiastically that he was, especially enjoying the thrill of baseball and football games. “You look very sporty today.”
Robert’s response was a combination of clear physical and verbal communication: Eyebrows raised, slight smirk, head cocked to the left. “Always.”
Of course he looked sporty. This was his “look.” I dropped my eyes to my own clothes, a Hawaiian shirt and worn boots. We chuckled. This was my “look” too.
As we walked up the stairs to the classrooms, I asked him if he enjoyed watching sports, or maybe even playing them. Again, his response seemed to convey “of course.” When he mentioned a love of soccer, I asked him to tell me more.
At first, I thought I had misheard him, so I blurted the words back in a mixture of shock and eager curiosity. “Playing soccer until you were 42?!”
It seemed to be the most natural thing in the world for him to talk about. Robert stuck out his hand to show me fingers disjointed from years of jams and sprains, and lifted up his pant leg to reveal scars on his left shin from a long-ago surgery. As our conversations drew to a close, he explained he had been a goalie on a professional Brazilian soccer team for many years.
Dozens of questions buzzed through my head, but with class about to start I didn’t have time for a single one of them. So instead I just wished him a good class and said I would see him soon.
I hesitate to say our program is changing the lives of the adults who participate. The world did not stop when I asked Robert about his hat. But for those brief moments, two people, different in many ways, were able to connect and share something that transcends language. And maybe that is enough.
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