Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 20th 2013 Contents B8
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, June 20, 2013
They come in after a 12-hour shift and sit down
to tell me about last night s events. We talk for about
15 minutes and then it s time to start the class.
They are an all-male group between the ages of
30 and 45, who work for almost three times the
money that the average government worker earns a
month. They are all married with children and they
all own a car and a home. They are all adult literacy
I was chosen to teach these men, some my own
age, to read and write better, to understand their work
a bit more through literacy classes. The Company
saw the need for the workplace programme when
workers had to hand over shifts and proper records
were not kept, daily checks on machines and other
equipment were not made and there were no ticks
on the checklists.
Short work-related courses were being offered and
the same workers would fail to show. The Company
then issued circulars and literacy class was one of
the courses listed. I was then informed that I would
be teaching workers who work on a shift system,
workers who were unsure of themselves with low
self-esteem. Classes are held twice-weekly in a room,
as requested by students, a few miles from the work
I remember walking into the room at 4 pm on
August 12, 1996, to meet a group of handsome men,
all neatly dressed. With sweaty palms, and like them
also unsure of myself, I did the introduction.
Both regular attendance and commitment have
contributed to their accomplishments. At the begin-
ning, students were all wrapped up in the programme,
as at that stage they were remembering things that
they learned in school; sentences would connect and
basic words were remembered.
Later on in the programme, there was a plateau in
the learning process and most students questioned
themselves as to the relevance of the classes. The big
challenge then was to maintain their interest and
enthusiasm. Frequent reassurances and pep talks were
necessary. I then had to change my strategy to ensure
that students were not bored and to provide activities
and avenues for them to write freely.
We have a special sentence book where they would
each write a sentence about what happened on the
job the night before. This worked well as they were
using work-related words and phrases.
Despite family commitments and difficult early
childhood experiences, they are all learning and the
company is pleased with their progress. Progress
reports along with attendance sheets and other relevant
information are submitted at the end of each term.
One of the satisfying moments for both students
and tutor was when a neat, little book was produced.
Students were asked to write instructions for some-
thing with which they were familiar.
All students submitted work-related pieces. After
five months of editing the pieces with the help of
each student a book was compiled.
With permission from management, copies were
distributed to students. That was the first and only
time I heard from the general manager of the company.
He relayed his compliments. Each student was also
praised and encouraged to work harder.
Outside of class, Andy now helps his seven-year-
old with his homework. Lincoln admits that he never
knew the word "soar" until he read it in the Alta
workbook and then in the dictionary. Troy can now
read the driving test regulations that he had memorised
so well. And when Clive writes notes to me nothing
is more rewarding and satisfying than to read what
a student has written using words that together we
have worked on.
On mornings when I am so cold and my husband s
hug feels like heaven, I think of my students who
haven t slept a wink all night. I think of the two lab
assistants who have to record and take water samples
every two hours. I think of the forklift operator who
has to remove so many loads of material for the
night and I jump out of bed and hurry to meet
them, not wanting to be late, just in case they
fall asleep before I arrive.
When I introduced them to a game of Scrabble
and one of them dared me to find a word in the
dictionary and when the supervisor at their
workplace informed me that there is a change
in their attitude towards work, I know that I
have done something right.
Workbooks hidden in a bag are now a thing
of the past. The men now carry them proudly
along the corridor to the classroom which the
company has set up.
Literacy in the workplace: Not as hard as iron
• Workplaces may contract
Alta to provide literacy
instruction for employees whose
literacy skills need upgrading.
Unlike the free community
classes, workplace programmes
allow for an intensive
programme for quicker results
and run on days and times to suit
employees' work schedules and
to avoid peak times or seasons.
Call 624-ALTA (2582), 664-2582,
653-4656 or e-mail
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