“As teachers you have those moments when you can see them growing and grasping things and understanding it. It is so rewarding.”
John Bruton joined the Literacy Council in 2019 as a volunteer tutor for the organization’s Basic Literacy Program. This program supports native English speaking adults who may have slipped between the cracks while in school and who have a 5th grade reading level or lower. Lynn Bruton, the Literacy Council’s volunteer Basic Literacy Program Coordinator, describes the challenges faced by the adult learners who come to her seeking help. Adult basic learners have few problems communicating orally. You would never know that they can’t read or that they don’t have a high school diploma. Some may have mild learning disabilities. Our interest is to find out what are their goals and to try to get the right tutor to the right student.
Getting the right tutor for the right student is exactly what Lynn did by recruiting her husband John to help Joey, a new Basic Literacy student whose goal was to improve his math skills so he could pass the math portion of the GED and help with a career path. Joey shared: I was raised by a single mom who was always working, and I left school early. Math was always the problem I had with being in school. When Joey came to the Literacy Council, he had already passed the other sections of the GED, but struggled with math. I didn’t have the money to pay for a private session to get to where I eventually got. I couldn’t afford to not do it [come to the Literacy Council].
John explained the challenges Joey faced: Two years ago the GED changed to mathematical reasoning. Now all the problems are the dreaded ‘story’ problems. The student has to read and interpret the problem before determining the appropriate math method to use to solve the problem. So literacy becomes nearly as important as math in solving the problems. The language element was critical.
John and Joey began working together in the spring of 2019 to help Joey, regularly meeting twice a week with homework in between. John shared the following: Joey knew he wanted to pass the GED. We had examples of what it looked like, so we could take it and break it down to see what we had to do. He could see that progress being made, and that the progress is leading to an end point.
Starting in March 2020, the pair had to start meeting virtually using Google Chat and a white board, working with a math GED prep book and Kahn Academy visuals. John experimented to find Joey’s learning style. While teaching experience is not essential to be a Literacy Council tutor, in this case, John drew on his professional experience as an educator to prepare in advance, commenting that there was never any doubt that Joey was going to pass the GED. There was some question as to when, but there was never any question that he had the capability to pass it.
John credits Joey’s commitment as critical – he gave Joey homework every week and he did not just one hour but several hours outside of tutoring – and within a year, Joey was doing algebra! Joey and I have had a strong relationship for over a year, and it has been strong and it has been mutual, I certainly have gotten return as well seeing how quickly Joey progressed.
Congratulations to Joey, who received his GED in June 2020 and shared his feelings with the Literacy Council: Relieved, relief, I no longer feel stuck. He [John] just made an easy path. Trust your tutor. He knew where to go with the program and how to help. Don’t let what you currently know stop you from getting to what you can learn.
Learn more HERE about the Basic Literacy Program on our YouTube channel, including an interview with John and Joey sharing their experience tutoring together.
John holds a PhD in Organizational Management and has dedicated many years of his career to teaching engineering and organizational management including as Professor and Department Chair in the Management Department, California State University Northridge, and one year teaching high school math.
Last year, more than 150 passionate and dedicated volunteers like John contributed over 12,800 hours supporting the tutoring, class, parent and workplace literacy programs. The Literacy Council is always seeking volunteers. Learn more by registering for a 60-minute Volunteer Information Session offered every month, followed by a Tutor Training Workshop. All sessions and workshops are currently conducted online.