What is it like to be a volunteer ESL tutor?
I actually started volunteering as an ELS teacher on and off during weekends about thirteen years ago. It lasted about seven years, but was put off when I had my son. Not until half a year ago did I pick it up again. It is hard to juggle between family, work and volunteering. I reduced the hours to an hour a month to fit in our current schedule. So far, it is working fine. My ESL students are mostly Somalians and Hmongs because Minnesota has a huge population of refugees from Somalia , Vietnam , and Cambodia . These are the type of people that I usually teach as a service to the community. They are usually not highly educated. The difficulties of teaching ESL to these people are the barriers of language and culture.
In colleges or universities, there are a higher percentage of Asian students such as Chinese and Taiwanese attending ELS lessons. It is much easier to teach these students since there are fewer language and cultural barriers between the students and me. In addition, these students came to the United States to study and are usually more educated than the Somalians and the Hmongs.
The biggest challenge for the ESL students to adjust to these classes that we teach is the different style of teaching. We strive to be consistent but it is not that easy. My dilemma is that I really cannot commit myself more than an hour a month. My family life still comes ahead of anything else. Even though I feel the need to contribute to the society, I do not want to jeopardize the quality time that I can have with my kids. As for now, I will stay with this schedule, contributing my limited efforts to the community. Maybe when my kids become well-behaved teenagers, I can then volunteer more.