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Thread: I Retired - Part 2: Volunteering

  1. #1
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    I Retired - Part 2: Volunteering

    Yesterday I tried out my first volunteer experience since retiring a month ago. (I'm not counting church volunteering, which I've done all along in a very minor way.)

    The public library has a drop-in conversation hour for English language learners and they welcome fluent speakers to be "hosts" for the conversation groups. I showed up, got my 2-sentence training and sat where they told me. There were about 10 of us, one for each circle of 6 chairs.

    Then the participants came in. Everyone had a name-tag. The hosts had handouts with a list of conversation-starters. They just want you to keep the conversation going.

    It was so much fun! I had 6 people from 3 different countries. Every one of them was eager, motivated, courteous, and thankful. What a pleasure. I was so impressed by how hard each one of them seemed to be trying. It takes courage to show up and speak up in that type of situation when you are still struggling to learn a new language. Even though some of them had only rudimentary expressive skills, I could tell that they each had a lot of general knowledge and life experience.

    I want to find out more techniques for getting better at this and I want to come up with more prompts and so on. If anyone on this list has sites to recommend with helpful tips on how to be a better English conversation coach I would be grateful.

    I would definitely recommend volunteering in this way to anyone who is looking for a retirement volunteer experience.

  2. #2
    Senior Member razz's Avatar
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    They talked about doing this program at my local library but it never really took off. Yes, that is a great volunteer activity.
    Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony .

  3. #3
    Senior Member KayLR's Avatar
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    I did that years ago; it was a program through the community college. I had a 1-1 student. I absolutely loved it, too. We did all kinds of things to build vocabulary. She liked fables, so I brought some children's story books and had her read them, occasionally stopping to talk about what she was reading. We looked at comics---they brought up a lot of conversation. Once I brought a book (probably elementary school) which had illustrations of things in nature labeled like "branch, leaf, bark, stamen, pistil, needle, etc.) and she really liked that. You could talk about walks on trails and what you see. You could bring in the newspaper and talk about the headlines or photos.

    My student was so interesting. She was Japanese, a nurse. She left Japan to live in Canada and met her husband, an Iranian refugee. He spoke Farsi, she Japanese, but they had Baha'i in common. Their little children spoke three languages.

    Good for you finding that opportunity! I hope you continue to enjoy it!
    My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already!

  4. #4
    Senior Member Simplemind's Avatar
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    That sounds like so much fun!

  5. #5
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    Kudos to you, Rachel, and to your public library.

  6. #6
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    I taught an ESL class for Literacy Volunteers for a couple of years. I stopped because I'm frankly at an age where I'm kind of worthless after a full day at work and wasn't able to give it my best. But I will likely look into doing it again after I retire. It was very gratifying to work with people who were really trying hard to improve their lives.

  7. #7
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    These are great ideas, KayLR. I'll think about how to adapt some of that for the small group context.

  8. #8
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    Did they give you training, oldhat, or did you get some curriculum materials from the organization?

  9. #9
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    Literacy Volunteers provided training (four evening sessions over two weeks, as I recall) and all curriculum materials. The curriculum materials weren't so terribly useful, since although LV tried to classify the students according to level of ability, they were all over the map. I ended up using a lot of worksheets that I downloaded from various internet sites, as well as just trying to engage them in conversation.

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