May 7, 2014

Teaching Adults to Read

by Camille Spencer and Nicole Cacozza

Olneyville ESOL works in partnership with William D'Abate Elementary School to teach English to adult immigrants in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence. Coordinators Camille Spencer and Nicole Cacozza share a story about their beginnings and endings in the program.

I have learned more than I ever expected to about the theory and practice of teaching, and how to be confident in myself and my abilities both in the classroom and as an organizer and leader.

Camille: When I first interviewed as a freshman to be a volunteer for the program, I had no idea what a huge effect it would have on my life. What started out as a desire to stay in touch with my Latin American roots became a fascination with communicating ideas in a new language, a desire to make some concrete change in other peoples' lives, a constant puzzle, and a road to many unique friends (as well as a few interesting van rides). I went from having never taught to seeing the same learners return semester after semester, watching their confidence and skills grow - as well as (I hope) my own. The people I've met through this program - both Brown students and the learners themselves - have taught me about the sort of person I admire. I'm proud of the work I've seen our volunteers do, and the ways that they themselves have learned. I can mainly hope that I've done right by them and that this program will continue to work to give our learners the best we’ve got.

These are simple words, but deeply felt. I will miss Olneyville ESOL, but I feel confident that it will continue to grow and thrive.

NicoleMy first semester at Brown, two of my friends in Keeney told me I should join this Swearer Center group with them called Olneyville ESOL. I had no background in adult education or language instruction, no real idea what I was getting myself into, but my friends were very convincing. They told me that things would be fine, I would learn everything I needed, plus it would be good to get off College Hill for a bit, and so I said yes.

Four years later, Olneyville ESOL has become the most important activity in my life at Brown. I have been a part of it every semester, first assisting, then teaching, and this year coordinating. I have learned more than I ever expected to about the theory and practice of teaching, and how to be confident in myself and my abilities both in the classroom and as an organizer and leader.

More than anything else, ESOL has been an amazing community to be a part of for four years. All the people involved, from the adults who come to class each semester to learn English, to my fellow Brown students who take on the challenge of learning to teach, make the program a wonderful and dynamic place. The commitment, intelligence and high spirits that I have seen day in and day out doing ESOL were what kept me coming back every semester. I was proud and happy to be a part of Olneyville ESOL, and I hope that after I graduate there will be more Brown students who are able to have the same experience.

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