Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 27th 2014 Contents C8
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, November 27, 2014
This week, David Shim writes about how he
became an Alta volunteer less than three months
ago, and the steps it took to serve as a reading
guide. David currently volunteers at the Alta
Reading Circle at St Anthony's College. Here is his
I can t put volunteering down to some higher
calling or special qualities. A friend, who was an Alta
tutor, had once talked about how rewarding her expe-
rience was but no light bulb went off then. My intro-
duction to Alta happened pretty much by chance:
a short film dealing with literacy at the T&T Film
Festival in September, a conversation with Paula
Lucie-Smith afterwards, and a one-day training ses-
sion for Reading Circle guides a week later. It was
as simple a decision as "can t hurt to see what it s
about," and then "well why not give it a shot."
The one-day training had felt short---to get a grasp
of everything one should know. Then there was a
feeling of trepidation when I showed up at the Reading
Circle venue expected to be immediately able to put
it all into practice. Nothing can prepare you for the
self doubt that steps in. I began to ask myself: Can
I do this? Do I have the people skills? Will people
be bored or turned off?
The first few Reading Circle sessions left many
unanswered questions. Not finishing the lesson plan,
not understanding the rationale of some of the exer-
cises and not seeing students get words even after
seeing it a few times. So naturally my first response
was concern, sometimes panic. Am I failing? What
was I doing wrong? Thankfully the open lines of
communication with Alta s trainers: a quick email
and discussions with Paula and with another expe-
rienced volunteer/guide did assuage some of my
Reading, which most of us take for granted, "ent"
easy and can be slow, moreso with English having
so many rules and exceptions to the pronunciation
rules. It can be hard for the learner. In these few
months I have already learnt a few things myself
like: don t sweat the big words, don t be concerned
that they get every word in
a text and just expose them
to as many words as pos-
As a guide, I began to
look at the lesson plan dif-
ferently: I try to get in the
exercises but I no longer get
into a panic. I let the stu-
dents influence the pace.
The lesson plans are just a guide so I find myself
being flexible enough to adjust to my sense of the
students and avoid at all costs the "I am the teacher
and you the student" attitude. Finally it s about the
words but maybe even more---a meaning from the
words that makes someone want to read more.
So it s been just over a month---just the baptism
really---way too early to determine if there is progress.
But there are glimmerings. Some pretty amazing
things have already happened that I have seen myself.
For example, some time ago we read a story about
how early experiences shaped one of our local writers
to which a student expressed, "That was a powerful
story". Another time we were reading about Brian
Lara and when the lesson time was over there was
interest in reading on some more; and finishing the
story in the coming week. Their appreciation and
interest continues to grow week by week.
One has to recognise the effort these individuals
are making to devote two evenings a week to attending
a literacy class, and an added evening to Reading
Circle. I think they could be doing stuff with their
families and friends, recreating or who knows? Instead
they make the time to be at Alta.
If you have the time to make their efforts worth-
while, is it not your responsibility to "put ah han?"
Why I became an Alta volunteer
•Alta needs volunteers to teach at classes across
Trinidad for academic year Sept 2015-June 2016.
Call 624-ALTA (2582)/ 653-4656/ 664-2582 to
schedule an interview and begin the process of
becoming an Alta tutor.
Luke Hemmings of the group 5 Seconds of Summer performs on stage at the
42nd annual American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre LA on Sunday in Los
Angeles. AP PHOTO
ROCKIN' IT OUT
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