Guest Blog Post: Elaine Zimmer, tutor at MLC Learning Center - Northeast

Elaine Zimmer

Thanks to Elaine Zimmer, tutor at MLC Learning Center - Northeast, for sharing her wisdom in today's guest blog post!

When I retired 11 years ago, I knew that I wanted to tutor as a volunteer.  I’m a teacher at heart, love social interaction and have always enjoyed learning and sharing knowledge. After my MLC training, I chose to work at the Sumner Library location in North Minneapolis where I got hooked.  I have been at Trinity in Northeast Minneapolis for about five years.

I think teaching English as a volunteer with MLC has staying power for me.  What makes me stay? The students have chosen to come and are motivated to learn, even though most have very hectic and difficult schedules. They leave with a smile on their face. I try to make learning fun. I’m also a thespian at heart. I make myself available to students before class, during the break, and after class if they have questions, which many do.  I have helped a couple of them with love letters, so I know they feel connected to me. I remind myself often that my contact with the student needs to give them a caring and positive feeling.

I’d like to share something that happened last week that has never happened before. Our writing lesson subject was: “Is it ok for parents to hit their children?”  That question evoked the most student feedback of any I have ever asked. One of the shyer students said, “Your parents should love you and children shouldn’t feel afraid of them. If you hit them, the children won’t feel that way.” Very profound from one of my shyer students. I talked about the cycle of abuse. Most students stayed through their break time to write a response and several stayed after class to finish. That has never happened before, and I was amazed. Give them something they have a strong opinion about, and you can’t stop them.

To make a new student feel comfortable, I write prompts on the board and ask everyone to say “I’m _________.  I’m from _________.  I’ve been in America ________.”  I include myself in that introduction. I usually bring bananas for them to have at break time. I have heard some amazing stories that students have felt comfortable enough to share with the rest of the class pertaining to the lesson. 

Three variations that I use for individual students’ reading out loud are:

  1. I start out reading myself and ask all students to follow along. Before I start, I remind them that I will stop and ask a student to read the next sentence. I will either continue reading after that, or ask the student to pick another student to continue reading. The students are more diligent about following along. 
  2. Last week after each student finished writing about their favorite food, I asked them to pass their paper to the right. Then they took turns reading their neighbor’s story out loud to the class.
  3. I have also started out reading the first sentence, letting each student take a turn in seating order reading the following sentences. 

I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to share my knowledge and information with those who are so eager to learn.  Kudos to the gifted MLC staff who give staying power to this outstanding program.  I must include a special thanks to the Carlson School of Management for recently developing a user-friendly web site for the Northeast Learning Centee Thank you to Jodi, the evening coordinator, who was always there every week for my tech questions but now no longer needs to be. 

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