It would be fair to say that I was a little anxious about the first class where I would be a voluntary support worker with the WEA and a typical (for me) stream of questions and ‘what ifs’ flooded my brain. What would the students be like? What level of work will it be? Will I have the skills to support anyone? What about the tutor – will he/she be easy to get on with? Will there be any support and training for me?
I need not have worried. One term later as I sit typing this I can honestly say my decision to join the WEA was one of my better ones! A training session held before the class started answered many questions, gave me lots of things to think about such as the varied reasons why adults may need support in functional skills – those skills in reading, writing, basic maths and using a computer which many of us take for granted - and offered the support that, as a new volunteer, I felt I needed.
New volunteers are encouraged to do four short pieces of work as part of a reflective learning process which helps to focus their attention on various aspects of both supporting adult learning and being an adult learner. I felt, whilst working alongside the adults in the class, that I too was a learner. I was seeing education from a new angle and beginning to appreciate what was involved from multiple perspectives – the students’, the tutor’s and my own.
I have, over eleven weeks, been on a remarkable journey with the students in an English class. Some are there to improve their spelling; for some, English is a second language; others have specific learning difficulties. Although attending for different reasons, under the guidance of the tutor who assesses their grasp of English language at the outset – reading, writing, spelling, speaking and listening - and carefully differentiates activities, each of the students made progress. Achievements are celebrated and it is a joy to be there when a student accomplishes something which they had believed was beyond them!
Jan Clark - Classroom Support Volunteer, Chesterfield Branch