So I guess that's also what I do now.
OK, to be more accurate, for two hours a week I'm somewhere between a Teaching Assistant and a tutor, strictly volunteer - in a classroom of disparate experience levels, during the lesson I help out those who aren't quite understanding it. Following the directions I got last week, this morning I took the El to 63rd Street (almost to Upper Darby for locals - six blocks this side of the Tower Theater), walked two blocks north and looked for a certain street address that was supposed to have a double set of red doors. "Double set of red doors" + "Philadelphia" should have =ed "church" for me long before I got there.
Have I mentioned that this is an ESL (English as a Second Language) course?
I wandered about the church without seeing anyone for long enough to make me patently uncomfortable, but as I prowled around upstairs I finally heard people, and followed the sounds into a large room with folding tables and a man reading aloud from a bible to about seven senior citizens. This, obviously, was the reverend, who introduced himself and told me the teacher would be along presently. The gist of his talk (as it really was, not a sermon or a straight reading) was that Jesus wanted them to take their medication, that even in this great country of the best police force in the world security is not a certainty, that they should have their houses in order, that they should pray for their children, and that I would be here to help with the classes on Monday from now on.
Then he left.
I got to know a few people before the teacher showed up and we all learned the names of various American coins. There were eight or nine seniors by then, all from Liberia (as was the reverend), and all refugees. They have been in America anywhere between a month and a little over four years. As far as I can tell, none had any experience with the written language before arrival in this country; the one month lady can't write her name yet. The four year guy, though, is proficient enough in English that we had a stilted conversation. He's been here since 1999, but fled Liberia in 1990. He kicked around other countries in Africa for those nine years, including spending five of them in a refugee camp in Ghana, where, if I got it right, the rest of his family still awaits the opportunity to join him.
And learn English.
Possibly from me.