March 23, 2005

Taking on the Enemy (?)

Ranting and complaining do a body good; at least you’d think so, the way we all go about spending countless hours of our lives pitching perfectly good bitches about everything from late trains to crowded highways to smokers to bosses to paychecks (or the lack thereof) to just about anything and everything else that pisses us off in our daily lives. If you really think about it, and aren’t too self-absorbed to realize it, bitching is a rather self-serving activity. I should know. I’ve spent much of my life bitching about one thing or another, and for the most part, have immensely enjoyed it. I must have! Why else would I dedicate so much time to it?

More to the point of this post, we seldom take a pro-active approach to complaining. It’s easier to be an armchair warrior than to go into the field to take on the “enemy.” In many cases, we’re just too ill-equipped to do so. But sometimes, we're just more comfy staying pissed.

One of my favorite peeves in the late 80s and early 90s was the language-lazy immigrant. Why this flustered me so is beyond me; it just did. While complaining one day in casual manner with a college professor of mine, I noticed an “I know what you mean” look on her face and for some reason I asked, “So what the hell can be done to change it?”

Her response was far more than I had bargained for. She not only told me about Literacy Volunteers of America, but also handed me a pamphlet (in both English and Spanish, mind you - GRRR) directing me to our local Chapter. I tossed the pamphlet into my bag and thought, “Yeah, that’ll happen.” I had no intention of pursuing it further.

It wasn’t until many days later when I actually sat and read the LVA pamphlet. “Hmm, I could do that,” I decided. What I liked about the program was that you could set your own time frame and work where and when you wanted to. Anyone who knows me well realizes this is right up my alley!

There were two separate areas of interest at LVA. One was a basic reading program which provided remedial reading to already-English-speaking clients. Sounds silly, but if you knew how many illiterate people there are out there, your head would spin and you’d spit pea soup. The second option for tutors is ESL (English as a Second Language). For this area, there were several levels to contend with.

If, for instance, a person had been living here for five years or so and could manage simple conversation but wanted to continue learning more involved English, they would be a Level Five. The person who couldn’t so much as say “hello” in English would be at Level One. In between was … well … in between.

Getting through the weeklong course I had to take to become certified (this consisted of testing to see what my best tutoring skill would be), I was now ready for assignment. I was going to tutor ESL.

Skipping through my first two students for the sake of hanging on to whatever readers I may have roped in, I will now introduce Peter.

I was forewarned that Peter would be a challenge. He was from Bulgaria and though he had been living and working in America for three years thus far, his English was extremely strained and almost indecipherable. He moved into a predominantly Bulgarian neighborhood in Chicago upon his arrival and had no need (until now) to master English. When he moved east, he got a menial job at a local casino and wanted to improve his chances of being promoted one day. Peter came to me as a Level Three.

The first thing I liked to do with clients was to find out a little bit about their background. I did this for selfish reasons (I like people’s stories), but also to allay any fears that I might be the Tutor From Hell. Simple conversation, even through a slight language barrier, can put a person at ease quite quickly. I found Peter to be very likeable and extremely determined.

After two weeks of lesson plans and hour-long meetings at the Public Library, I received a phone call from LVA asking me to take on one more client, as a favor to Peter. His wife, Tessimira was just in from Bulgaria and needed “a lot of help.” Assuming, like the knucklehead that I sometimes am, that Tessimira would be at Peter’s level, I agreed to take her on as well. After all, she could meet with me at the same time as Peter and I’d be killing two birds with one brick. How hard could this be?

P r e t t y f r i g g i n h a r d !

To be continued …

(I apologize for turning this into a three-part saga, but I realize now that the kind of detail I’d like to toss out in this entry cannot be squeezed into a non-yawn-length-post)


Blogger Swifty said...

Can't say a lot just at the moment as this is obviously a preamble to the final concluding chapter. Isn't this exciting though? It reminds me of when I was a kid at the Saturday morning movies and we had to wait a whole week to see what was going to happen to Flash Gordon.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Sask 1 said...

Having helped with ESL classes here in canada i can only look forward to part 2.Sounds like its going to be fun to read.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Wally said...

A great read, and a topic that spurs many opinions. Mine, is short and sweet!? "When in America!"

12:21 PM  
Blogger brooksba said...

Hi Carol,

I can't wait for parts 2 & 3. This sounds like a very interesting story.


2:27 PM  
Blogger happyandblue2 said...

Awww crap..Three parts..Well I'm hooked know so hurry with part 2..

10:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting story and I can't wait until the next part! (but I guess I'll have to, wait)

8:45 AM  
Blogger Elle said...

Hi Carol, I'm checking you out! Great read, I'll be back.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Carol (Smiles and Laughter) said...

Hi Carol! (From another Carol at Smiles and Laughter). It does always put one in their place when one bitches and someone says "DO something about it!" I think it is in the extra X chromosome to bitch and not want to do something about it all the time.

Good for you for doing that! Now I'm hooked and will wait for part 2 and 3.

11:04 AM  
Blogger JODSTER said...

Great work. Glad you took up the challenge.

Now if only there was an organization I could help...

Like becoming a driving instructor.. hmmm...

1:53 PM  
Blogger NYCbeauty said...

wow...good for you. I tutored for LVA a long time ago. I did the remedial reading/writing track for English speakers. It was frustrating, yes, but rewarding. Very well written...I'm on the edge of my seat for the next part! Keep it up.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

Nothing wrong with a good three-parter.

2:59 PM  

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