Book Beat, Book Life

Work

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I’ve been meaning to write about work and so here it is.

I was working in a corporate office from 2014-2017. It was my first job out of college. It was a great experience and a great lesson. I learned a lot about what I can handle and what I refuse to deal with. Luckily, it was a contracted job and I had to be out by the end of June 2017. It took a lot of failed interviews at similar positions and some that I was not qualified for at all for me to land where I am now.

To keep some privacy, I won’t say who exactly it is that I work for, but I do want to mention where I work: the Literacenter. The Literacenter is a shared workspace dedicated to literacy. Several nonprofits’ offices are housed there, trainings are held there, meetings between likeminded, literacy advocates take place here, and of course there’s a bookstore. It’s basically a book nerd’s workspace heaven.

The organization I work with centers its mission and work in adult education. We, along with several other organizations in the city, provide services to adults who are either English as a Second Language (ESL) learners or Adult Basic Education (ABE) learners. The latter are adults who are native or high level English speakers who need extra help with their reading, writing, or math skills. Typically, these are people who never graduated high school, have learning disabilities and were never provided with extra help, and in some cases, there are people who simply never learned to read. The former are learners who are immigrants or on a refugee status. They know little to no English, although quite a few are at an intermediate, to high level of English skills.

I mostly work ESL leaners. The organization I work with has me going out to a couple of Chicago Public Libraries and teach (although I identify myself as a tutor at this point) English to members of the community. I develop a lesson plan each week. Depending on who my students are, I do reading and writing activities, although most of my students simply want to practice speaking English with someone.

I also have a big part in the office coordinating and managing registrations for trainings that we host. Each training’s topic is related to tutoring or serving the adult education population. Topics include things like Citizenship, social services, and even background information on refugees and the processes they go through before and after arriving to the US.

The teaching part is definitely my favorite. It has solidified my interest in becoming an English teacher. Even though I really enjoy working with adults, I still have the yearning and passion to teach teens. This role has given me the chance to work with, essentially, the parents of younger students. They even come to the library with their parents sometimes!

It’s an eye-opening experience to say the least. I get to see firsthand how literacy affects everyday life. For example, I have students who ask me to help them with things as simple as filling out an application or answering a phone call from a wrong number. These are simple things most people wouldn’t even think about twice, but they make all the difference in the lives of many of these learners.

The absolute best part of this is not just the experience I get to put on my resume, but the experience that I get to take with me for life. It’s so humbling and so damn beautiful to see an adult’s face light up when they read something straight through for the first time in a language they did not grow up knowing. What I love most of all is simply seeing that these adults are trying to learn. They make time in their day to travel to the library and learn, without anyone telling them to. Seeing that effort is truly inspiring to me as a 26 year old that sometimes doesn’t even know what she’s doing, but is glad to be doing it.

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