Learning from Teaching: They Taught Me More Than I Taught Them

I would like to take a few words to try and encourage fellow Celanese employees to assist in training growing minds at one of the many GED adult literacy program sites in the United States. Whether you are in the South or the Midwest, there is a local adult literacy program that would appreciate as little as an hour a month, or even as much as 4 hours a week, of your time. Many youth do not attain a high school diploma due to family, medical, or legal reasons. Volunteering at a GED training site can provide mentorship and guidance to those in need. Tutoring can also be a great source of personal development to the individual volunteer in terms of reinforcing fundamental skills and learning new tactics in communications. Ultimately, education strengthens our community and our workforce.

Tutoring does not stop with teaching fractions and grammar. Providing mentorship, being a role model, and properly communicating with individuals are all incredibly important. In the past six months, I have seen students come in for the first day who never show up again, and others who throw themselves at the task with work at home and full participation in class. The divider is typically how the student is approached and how a commitment structure is established. It’s a great first step to congratulate a new student on where they are in the process — reinforcing that everyone starts at the same point — and letting them know not to be intimidated by how much they have left to learn. Training and learning takes time and consistent work. It is critical to make sure they understand they are in good hands and will be guided as needed if they continue to show up to class. Tutoring is a great opportunity to learn how to actively listen and meet new acquaintances. If no one is there to welcome and encourage, it may result in an individual walking away from an opportunity to change their lives and better our society.

Tutoring is not about how smart you are, it is about how you can guide someone to understand a concept. It’s about them, and it’s a great opportunity to work on interpersonal savvy. Good teachers are able to adapt to several different styles of learning and approaches to solving problems. Most problems have many ways to reach a solution. Instead of forcing a set way to look at the world on a new learner, practicing active listening skills may lead you to look at the world in a different way via a new perspective. Active listening skills are incredibly useful in the workplace and can help your career growth. I was amazed to realize that after 21 years of education fractions are a confusing byproduct of the English unit system, which resulted from a simple question “why do we need to know fractions?”

The ages of students for GED adult literacy programs are 17 or older and account for one in seven of the high school diplomas received in the U.S. (1 in 20 college students have GEDs). It is important to remember that for many decades the economy was doing so well in the U.S. that many people were able to provide for their families without a high school diploma. With the recent market downturn, obtaining a GED has become quite important in the American work force. Additionally, there are students who did not value education until they entered the workforce, and there are some who may have missed a year of high school due to family, medical, and/or legal issues. Most are looking for a place to learn without judgement; many are able to transition easily to online curriculum.

Volunteering at our local GED Preparation Center in Winona for the past few months has forced me to stretch in describing mathematical and scientific principles to those that have little to no foundation in these fields. The other side of the coin for tactics in communication involves prompting for feedback, which has been successfully used at work to avert confusion. Simply asking clarifying questions when given tasks, and asking for an important task to be repeated back to ensure understanding has saved a lot of time and confusion.

Time commitments could be 1-4 hours per week. You will have to call ahead as most programs require a background check. If you are interested in tutoring at a local GED Preparation Center, please look at the links below to some of the sites near you. Together we can help grow the workforce, strengthen our communities, and improve our communication skills in the process. Thank you.

Winona, MN

Dallas, TX

Bay City, TX

Clear Lake, TX

Shelby, NC

Enoree, SC

Wilmington, NC

Narrows, VA

Florence, KY

Auburn Hills, MI

Meredosia, IL

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About the author


				Eric Kerr-Anderson is a Senior Engineer in the Celstran T&I Group in Winona, Minnesota. He is in charge of the Molding and Laboratory activities and assists with product specialist roles for LFT and Composites. Eric has a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham specializing in ballistic impact of composite structures. In his spare time he enjoys walking, hiking, biking, and is a consummate collector of hobbies.				

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