Friday, January 26, 2007


Last night I attended a training session for volunteer adult literacy tutors. It was a frustrating experience. I've made frequent mention here that I have learning disabilities. One profoundly frustrating disability is my difficulty in being able to follow instructions, whether they're spoken, written, or demonstrated. It takes me far more time than it does most people to learn the sequence of behaviors for performing various procedures.

The adult literacy program in Sacramento County uses the Laubach method of teaching elementary reading and writing skills. It employs precise procedures for teaching these skills. The training workshops consist of people briefly explaining and demonstrating these procedures and then having us practice them with each other using the tutor's and learner's manuals.

Unfortunately, we aren't allowed to study these manuals before the training sessions, nor are we allowed to borrow them after unless and until we're actually matched with a learner. This makes it all but impossible for me to learn the skills. If I'm to have any chance of learning them, I need to take a lot of time to study the manuals, practice the procedures, and absorb their pedagogical logic on my own.

Even then, I'm not sure if I can do it, but I want to try. I've wanted to do something like this for years but have always been too afraid to try. I always believed that I could never learn the procedures and that I'd look stupid and feel embarrassed and ashamed in the workshops and end up failing.

Last night I felt frustrated. But, fortunately, I'm more accepting than I used to be of the fact that I have this problem learning things that come much more easily to most people, and I 'm more willing and able to set aside embarrassment and shame in favor of making an effort to overcome the problem. I want to overcome this problem. I want to help other people overcome their problems or learning disabilities with language skills. I want to give something to my community. I want to show myself that I can do things I didn't think I could do and gain useful skills and self-confidence I've never had.

But, in this case, it looks to be a steep uphill climb. I've e-mailed the program coordinators about my concerns. I've asked to be allowed to borrow instructional materials and study them outside the training session and before I'm matched with a learner. But even if they agree to this, the next and last training session is an intensive seven hour one tomorrow, and I don't have enough time to adequately prepare for it. Try as I might to make myself believe otherwise and to go into tomorrow's session with a positive attitude, I find myself anticipating hours and hours of frustrating hell.


Jess said...

Did you think about maybe sitting with a more experienced mentor for a few seesions with their clients to see how they are doing things. I find with some of the volunteer things I have done myself it always helps me to watch a more experienced person for a day or so then let me at it. Also, for positive, don't look to fail. At least you are trying to do something, where so many others just talk about doing and never get around to it. Don't try too hard or anxiety will set in. Let yourself relax and you will find it will be okay.

Nagarjuna said...

Thank you for your sound advice, Jess. If I have inordinate difficulty tutoring, I will do as you suggest. In the meantime, I was able to procure the teaching materials and study them before the final workshop last Saturday, and I was also able to convey my concerns to the program coordinator, who was very supportive. During that workshop, I also took comfort in the presentation given by tutor-student pair in which the tutor said that when she began, she had some of the same concerns I did about not knowing what to do and feeling very incompetent. She was very anxious and tried very hard to be perfect until she was finally able to relax and let things come together naturally. She has now been with her student for two years and has led him from being unable to read and write a single letter to reading books to his young cousin. I felt very encouraged by this and am now more relaxed about it, at least until my first tutoring session. :-)