Answering the President

23 01 2009

There’s a new President with a pretty old-fashioned idea — that we should help our neighbors.

I think a lot of us do things already that fit in that category but the new thing that I am going to start is volunteering as a tutor in our library’s adult literacy program.

I’ve never done anything like this but they say that’s OK. I’m scheduled to attend a workshop to get started and then to meet with the literacy coordinator at the library to match me with someone who needs help learning to read English.

In Florida that might mean someone who speaks Spanish as much as it could mean someone who speaks English. I was told not to worry about that even though my Spanish is pretty much non-existent.

Another good thing the library does is to provide the space for this program. They don’t ask people to meet in their homes but have meeting rooms set up for the literacy program.

Why now? Well, we are in the library at least once a week and there is a big poster in the lobby asking for volunteers


and DD and I have looked at it and nodded and mumbled that we should find out about that for at least a year. But we all know how that goes. Life intervenes and it gets pushed down the list of things to do.  But then Obama kept talking and talking and talking and it finally clicked that I could probably find a few hours a week to help someone. What about that literacy program? I’m at the library anyway. Why not call? So I did and aside from not knowing how to fill out the application where it asks me what “skills and abilities” I have, it seems very manageable.

So, that’s my response to the President’s calls to service. Whether you are doing something similar or hate the whole idea, you can write about it and link your thoughts at the Thinking Homeschoolers wiki.




10 responses

23 01 2009

So for people with limited literacy, the tough job market could have an upside, of having time to spend reading with Nance and DD? I like it!

You raise the bar pretty high though, the way you just dismiss all you do already and look for more. I was sort of expecting you to write about the hundreds of homeschooling families you’ve helped through the years with Florida Unschoolers, in addition to your complete dedication to your kids and other family members. 🙂

23 01 2009
Nance Confer

I hope it works out and they like it too. We’ll see how well I fit in a “program” after years of unschooling. 🙂

The secret with the FU umbrella school management is that I have gotten meaner over the years. I only collect attendance and I only do that quarterly and, if you don’t send it in in a timely manner, I unenroll you. At first I spent way too much time coaxing people to do their part. There are almost 600 students enrolled now and those families manage to send the required email once every 3 months so I really have no patience for any other answer.

But I think all the volunteering we all do and all the things we do constantly for our families are really a private thing in a way. I was raised to value the anonymous donation over the showy public one.

But, otoh, getting the public acknowledgement seems to be something many/most people want. NPR had a fellow on a couple of days ago talking about a speech Bill Gates gave about getting corporations to do the right thing and public praise was part of what he pushed. I was torn between thinking it was a public shaming process and thinking I was just not appreciating how other people expect to be treated when they give. That the public acknowledgement is important to them and that’s OK.


23 01 2009

I was raised the same way. If credit and public acknowledgment is about ego strokes for the individual volunteer, like a competition to “win” praise and rewards a la Alfie Kohn, that’s a whole different thing — like showy, self-aggrandizing or manipulative public prayer say, or maybe more like studying for grades and test scores versus reading for love and pleasure, curiosity and enlightenment, the volunteer equivalent of school versus education?

But public acknowledgment can also be NOT about the individual’s ego, but about sharing something good and hoping it spreads, being willing to talk about what you’re doing not to brag and hear praise, but letting folks see it as ordinary and possible and begin to see themselves doing it too, just putting it out into the universe as positive energy, serving as a model to reach others the way we’ve done with unschooling for example — hey, I said SERVING!

In that way I do see opening up publicly about one’s private volunteering can itself be a form of service too, one that is not so easy for you, Miss Nance, as just doing the work. So you get credit from me not just for the volunteering but for posting about it, whether you want it or not. 😉

23 01 2009
Nance Confer

Thanks. 🙂


26 01 2009

Yeah for Nance! Have fun meeting new people. You dtr-in-law spoke very little English when she arrived her from Israel via Argentia five years ago..and now I swear she’s more fluent than me! You would never know. Here’s how she said she learned. I just made myself hang out with english speaking people who knew no spanish!! 🙂 I had to learn, she says, the ultimate testimony to how unschooling works..She wanted to learn, she created scenarios where she could learn and she learned. Good luck Nance with your new volunteer one of the Obama-ites, as my son calls us!

28 01 2009
Crimson Wife

My aunt teaches ESL classes and I’ve talked to her about it as a possible part-time career for me when my kids get older. She says the most important things are patience and warmth towards the student(s).

Good luck with your volunteering!

28 01 2009
Nance Confer

Thank you Betty and CW!

I’ll post a progress report along the way. 🙂


7 02 2009
Bill Gates’ Change Checklist: Mosquitoes, Education, Sleep « Cocking A Snook!

[…] added this video to the Thinking Parents wiki page Nance created for links on answering the President’s call. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Do We Teach Change As […]

9 03 2009

Nance, I thought this would appeal to you and DD —
“Cross My Heart and Hope to Volunteer”

27 03 2009
Answering the President — Part 2 « Cocking A Snook!

[…] the President — Part 2 27 03 2009 Way back in January, I wrote about signing up to be a literacy volunteer in response to the President’s call to service in […]

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