St. Joseph School on Wheels: Wanted: Volunteer needed to teach English
I’d been out of work for a while heading towards sixty, and I don't mean on the highway heading to Chicago. I had decided to go back to school one last time and obtain my Bachelors Degree at Northeastern Illinois University. I was given the opportunity to volunteer through Uniting America to teach English for the Sisters of St. Joseph School on Wheels program. This would be at Saint Blase on Wednesday nights on the bus and at St. Blase in the basement on Friday mornings. This is a program to teach English to people, mostly Polish and Latino adults, who want to learn the language and better assimilate or acclimate themselves into the American Culture. This is the program that would finally give me an opportunity to teach. I was scared to death.
My first class was in the basement at Saint Blase, where I was introduced to instructor Bill Bradt. He quickly sensed my apprehension. He calmly handed me a ten page handout with all the basic phonetic sounds for English and vowels that I had forgotten years ago. I remembered this as being how I learned to read. A light had come on. This is how I will teach beginning English. I will use the sounds as music. I had studied music most of my life and would use the different pitch of a note in a scale as different vowels. This will help me to communicate the different vowel sounds.
My first session with an adult learner using the handout and my beginning reader Side by Side books went well. These Side by Side books are very good for reading comprehension. The first birth pangs of morning sickness were now over. I had started swimming. I was now in the water with no apprehension of drowning. I had begun my journey and realized the first aspect of my original goal. I wanted to make a difference in someone's life.
The days turned to weeks, and then quickly it seemed four months went by, as I consistantly made many new friends.I am now a part of something much bigger than I’d ever hoped for. I had a feeling of accomplishment at my age that made my going back to school with all those extra hours of study worth it. I am not sure where I am going next, but I know I will never forget where I have been this past year and the wonderful experience it has given back to me...Oh yeah, I'm still teaching as a volunteer at St. Joseph School on Wheels on Wednesday nights.
Robert E. Falvey