Everything’s all white outside, and there are beautiful dew-bedecked spiderwebs covering all the bushes (I don’t want to think about how many spiders that adds up to!) – I think Autumn must be here.

The big news for this week is that I had my last ESOL-HT class! Well, technically it’s the second last, because there’s another session in 5 weeks, but finished for now at least. And the big excitement of the evening was that we got assigned our learners!

The instructors had been a bit vague about how the process of matching tutor and learner worked, other than to say we would have some choice, but it turned out to be pretty straightforward. The instructors had already done some of the matching process, picking out two or three learners who might suit us (based on the area of town we lived in and the information we’d given in our interviews in January about things like what times of day we were available), so on Tuesday night each of us were given the files of those learners to look through. We then had to take out any that we absolutely didn’t want to work with and return them to the front desk, and then rank the rest in order of preference (or, if you’d rejected all your potential learners, you could go through the files others had left on the desk and see if any of them suited you better). The instructors made it clear that we were allowed to use any criteria we wanted to reject or select a learner, whether something practical (like they lived too far away), or something like age or gender – they wouldn’t ask us why we’d selected or rejected the learner, so we could just go with gut feeling if we liked, but the important thing was that we feel comfortable with who we’d chosen, as we’d be having to go into their home.

Because of privacy issues, there’s not really a lot I can tell you about the three learners whose files I was given. They all lived within a few minutes’ walk of my house (The instructors must have done a lot of map-checking to achieve that! I had told them at the interview that I didn’t have a car, but I didn’t expect they’d be able to find me anyone so close), were all female, and had very different backgrounds and English abilities. Each would have presented me with very different challenges, but each of those challenges sounded equally exciting to me, so it was incredibly hard to choose between them. In the end, as I would be happy to work with any of them, I decided to just rank them in order of how close they lived to me (although the difference was only a couple of hundred metres at most).

Once we’d made our choices, we filled in a form listing our order of preference and saying when we’d be available for a preliminary meeting with our learner, and returned the files to the instructors, who over the next few days would contact the learners (through an interpreter or an English-speaking family member if the learner’s English wasn’t good enough), check they still needed a tutor and that they hadn’t moved to the other side of town or something, and arrange the meeting.

So on Thursday night I got a phone call from one of the instructors. She’d called my first choice, and discovered that the learner was attending English classes full time through a language school, so didn’t need a tutor any more. Then she’d called my second choice, and been told that the learner’s circumstances had changed and she now really only wanted a tutor who could come during the day (and I of course am only available in the evenings, because of work). Finally she called my third choice, this time with success! The learner was still in desperate need of a tutor, hadn’t moved, and was happy to have evening lessons. The instructor was very apologetic to me that she’d had to resort to my third choice, but I reassured her that my ranking was pretty arbitrary and I honestly would have been happy with any of them.

So I now have a learner! And today at lunchtime I’m going over there to meet her!!! For this first meeting I go with the instructor (and possibly with an interpreter), who’ll introduce us, carry out some language tests to evaluate her level of English (speaking, listening, reading and writing), and establish what the learner’s goals are (e.g. wants to get a job, or to be able to communicate with her children’s teachers, or to pass the language requirement to get permanent residency), which will guide me in planning lessons. My role for most of this meeting is basically just to observe.

Then we’ll establish a time for our lessons (which will be one hour a week), and after that I’m on my own! Well, not entirely on my own – I can call the instructors any time for advice, and there’s a huge resource library at the ESOL-HT office I can use, and at the final class in 5 weeks we’ll be discussing our progress with our learners so far and helping each other with ideas – but as far as the lessons themselves go, it’ll just be me and my learner. Scary thought, but I’m also really looking forward to it.

Recent Catches

  • An anonymous finder from the Lantern Festival: Hawk in a Blue Sky by Charlotte Lamb
  • A book that was caught last April in Dunedin, which the catcher (I assume it’s the same people, anyway, although they’ve used a different screen-name) has finally read, and wasn’t impressed by, although they’re still keen on the idea of bookcrossing: The Iceberg Hermit by Arthur Roth
  • One of the books I released round the University during the first week of term: Moviola by Garson Kanin
  • An anonymous catch from one of the books we labelled in the Wellington YHA, which was actually caught in an Auckland YHA, and returned to Wellington again! Wings of Fire by Dale Brown

Currently reading: Sociolinguistic Theory by JK Chambers (I’ve got my first test on Thursday – eek! Guess what I’m going to be spending most of this weekend doing?), and The Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory (unless I get distracted again by something better)

Currently listening to: Tennyson’s Gift by Lynne Truss (yes, that Lynne Truss, and I can tell you her non-fiction writing is a LOT better than her fiction!)

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  1. It must be exciting! And scary, in a good way.

    The fact that they could find three in easy walking distance suggests there’s a lot of need there.

  2. Love your photos of the spider webs. Altho I’m not fond of spiders, they do build the most fascinating structures!

    Good luck with your learner. This sounds like such a positive experience for both of you.

    On this side of the planet, we are celebrating spring. Enjoy your autumn!

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