Friday, August 31, 2007

August Hours are DUE!!!

It's time to report your tutoring hours for August.

Please don't forget.

Please report your hours no later than Friday, September 7. You can just send the information via email.

Also, don't forget to RSVP for the inservice trainings!!! Session descriptions are on the upper right side of this screen. So far, I'm the only one signed up. For both.

Have a fabulous Labor Day weekend! --SM

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Free clothes!

Safari Seconds Thrift Store is holding a clothing giveaway. It is open to the public and all are invited to come and shop for dresses, pants, shirts and much more. Everything outside the store will be free; items in the store are for sale.

When: Friday, Aug 31, 11:00am-1:00pm and the last Friday of every month!!
: Safari Seconds Thrift Store, 410 Broadway, Denver, CO, 80203

Safari Seconds Thrift Store is a program of the African Community Center, a refugee resettlement agency in Denver, Colorado. All proceeds from the store go to support the cause.
For more information call Emily, Thrift Store Manager, at 303-722-4500.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Artists build cultural bridges

Here is an interesting article about a group of musicians collaborating across countires, oceans, and the Internet. Very cool!

Evaluating the program

Last week, I met with someone from the State Refugee Office regarding, well, everything about this program. She asked me if the volunteers evaluated the program upon leaving their tutoring positions. I told her that we had never done that, as most people were pretty good about giving feedback as they went along. It looks like I'll have to put a more formal system in place, but I would like your input as I create the evaluation tool. Please consider:

Which areas do you think you would like to comment on? I figured you would want to say something about:
  • training
  • communication with the coordinator
  • technical support
  • inservice trainings (but maybe not this year--it was a bad year!)
  • student matching process
  • Why you volunteered and whether or not you got what you wanted from the program
  • What you wanted but didn't get within the program
  • suggestions

Now, I am not asking you to tell me your opinions at this time; I want to know if there is something else about the program that bears consideration but that I haven't thought of. Is there something I should add to the list that you, as a tutor, feel you would like to rate or comment on when you leave us?

Let me know your thoughts at Thanks!

ESL Job Opportunities

I am just passing this along for those of you who are interested in a paid position:
Focus Points Family Resource Center is looking for qualified ESL Instructors!
Please email Jolene Goerend, Adult Education Director at, if interested.
The available classes are:

Ford Elementary
14500 Maxwell Place
Denver, CO 80239

Level 1
Mon/Wed 5 - 7:30 pm
5 hrs teaching, 8 hours paid weekly
starts Sept 10th

Oakland Elementary
4580 Dearborn Street
Denver, CO 80239

Mixed Level
Tues/Wed/Thurs 9 - 11 am
6 hrs teaching, 9 hours paid weekly
starts Sept 11th

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Culturally Connecting

Girl Power!
Last week, one of our volunteers, Anna Hebbert, bravely volunteered to take a group of Somali young ladies to a Rapids Soccer game. Honestly, it often seems like when it comes to refugee kids and sports, the boys usually get all of the attention and have all of the fun. Kudos to Anna for giving these girls some much-needed special attention and a very cool excursion!

Pre-game hanging out

The girls at the game

Save the Dates!

Next training for NEW tutors: Saturday, September 22.
Applications are available online at These forms must be printed out and submitted via fax or U.S. mail.

In-Service Training
These dates are tentative and should be finalized by September 1.
  • Movie night: Rain in a Dry Land, Thursday, September 13, 6:30 p.m. This PBS documentary film follows the lives and resettlement progress of some of the first Somali Bantu families who came to the U.S. The film provides a compelling look at issues surroounding cultural adjustment and perceptions, and an insightful exploration of the resettlement process itself.

  • Class: Back to Basics: Techniques for Every Tutor, Saturday, September 29, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. A general refresher on some techniques you may have forgotten or just always wanted to try.

Because we will need to utilize staff other than myself for these inservice trainings (including a projectionist and additional teachers), please RSVP so I can gauge the level of interest and anticipated attendance. Thanks!

Friday, August 17, 2007

July news!

Hello, everyone!

It's the end of July, and you know what that means—it's time to report your tutoring hours for this past month. I know that there will be fewer hours than usual since many of you have been on vacation or busy doing summer things.

Please don't forget to include your student's name with the number of hours you spent together. Thanks!

My regular email address seems to be working OK now, so feel free to send your messages to

My office closes for summer break beginning at 3:01 p.m. on Thursday, August 2. I will be out of the office for two weeks, returning on August 20. I'll be checking email until August 6, when I compile my monthly report, but not after that. In fact, I'll be out of town for a good portion of the break. I'm going to Phoenix (Scottsdale, actually). It may be unbelievably hot there in August, but the airfare was really cheap. Beats sitting in the wading pool in my backyard like I did last year. I hope.

So, what's going on this month? Plenty! This is going to be a very long post. I recommend that you print it out.

Facts and figures
It's easy to feel like you're alone and on your own in this program since you don't often have the opportunity to interact with other volunteers. The truth is, you're in very good company! At any given time, there are between 75-100 students in the program and an equal number of tutors.
Here's something else to think about: In the first three quarters of this fiscal year (October 06 through June 07), all of you together dedicated far in excess of 3,000 hours of time to this program. Way to go! The actual number is probably higher as not all of you (ahem) report your hours each month.

In July, 12 tutors started working with a student in our program, and a few others rejoined us after taking a break. Welcome and good luck!!

But, the need is never met!
I once again have a long list of students waiting for a tutor and the list is getting longer. This is the busiest time of year for refugee resettlement. We're getting inundated with refugees from Burma via the Thai camps that were closed down. If you've been taking a break from tutoring and you'd like to start again, just let me know!

Speaking of Burmese…If you are currently working with a Burmese student or you just recently started, let me give you a heads up. The Burmese Karen women are very eager to learn and they are really resourceful. You may have been assigned to work with one student, but it's entirely possible several women will want to join you. Some of the Burmese women actually meet with multiple tutors (just to confuse me!) throughout the week.

It is perfectly OK with me if you work with a group, as long as you're OK with it. There are a lot of things you can do with a group of students that aren't possible with just one. The only thing I request is that you let me know who all of the women are that you're working with.

Like teaching computers?
I have a student in the Stapleton redevelopment complex who needs a new tutor. She's Somali Bantu, she's very young and very sweet. Habiba has worked quite hard to learn the English she knows, but she wants to continue to learn more, including literacy. She has a computer and is very eager to master computer skills. Please let me know if you're interested in working with Habiba. She's lovely!

Upcoming Inservice Trainings
We are very behind in our inservice trainings for this fiscal year. There will be two coming up very close together in September. Exact dates haven't been set yet, but should be coming soon.
The first session will be a screening of the PBS documentary, Rain in a Dry Land. This film was featured on PBS close to World Refugee Day. The film documents the resettlement of Somali Bantu families and their subsequent adjustment to living in the United States.

The second session will be a workshop, tentatively titled: Back to Basics: Techniques for every tutor. This session will review some of the common activities and techniques that are effective for those who teach English in a one-to-one situation, especially in a home setting. I hope to include information about how to incorporate the use of textbooks in your teaching.

Looking for a job?
I have received a couple of ESL job postings recently for very part-time work—like five hours a week. Let me know if you would like to have these forwarded to you.

An excellent resource for you!
The Literacy Network of Washington (NOW) has been working on some cool stuff. They are working on a rewrite of the tutor handbook we use (they wrote the originals, as well, under the name Tacoma Community House). The organization also has a free handbook for home tutors who are working with students have a very low level of literacy. I can send it to you, or you can download Making It Real for free (.pdf document) from the NOW Website:
Literacy NOW also publishes the best, most amazing, incredibly helpful newsletters available for ESL tutors. Do yourself a big favor and read them! The most recent issue doesn't really start until page 7, and the topic is employment readiness. Don't stop there—scroll down to read (and print out) the other editions, as well. Each newsletter has teaching strategies, resources, and homework ideas. I only wish I could put together a newsletter that is even half as useful as those published by Literacy NOW.

More professional development!
The Center for Applied Linguistics has a sister organization, the Center for Adult English Language Acquisition. Their Website is packed with articles about teaching ESL, adult education, literacy, culture…and lots of things you haven't even realized you needed yet! There is also a list of books commonly used in adult ESL programs (I'm familiar with most of them, so if you have questions, please ask). This is a very big Website, so you'll want to bookmark it for future reference.

Beds Needed!
With the overwhelming influx of refugees going on right now, at least one resettlement agency is running out of furnishings, particularly beds. Ecumenical Refugee & Immigration Services is in desperate need of beds and bedding (sheets, blankets, etc.) in all sizes. Ecumenical is looking for good condition mattress and box spring sets with frames. The agency will arrange to pick up the bed at your location. Saturday pickups are available. Bedding will most likely have to be dropped off at the ERIS office at 16th & Downing.

This is a tax deductible donation. Donations coordinator Joyce Hansen (303-860-0128 ext. 30) will be happy to mail you a receipt after pickup has been made.

ERIS, one of three resettlement agencies sending refugee students to EGOS, is only just starting their busy season and is expected to receive many more refugee families over the next few months. Please donate beds, bedding, towels, and any other "good condition" household items to this nonprofit refugee agency to help out a newly arrived family in need.

As a person who visits many refugee homes, I can tell you that some of the donated furniture in use is pretty sad. Also, there continues to be a significant shortage of lamps (and light bulbs!) and coffee tables. You know, I keep waiting to find all of my donated furniture and kitchen items when I walk into a refugee home one of these days!

Movie announcement!
Harvest of Hope and Newmarket films cordially invite you to a special screening of God Grew Tired of Us, a three-time winner at the Sundance Film Festival.

This film, produced by National Geographic, follows the story of three young men from Sudan, former "Lost Boys," as they work their way through the resettlement process and then use what they've learned to help others. As one of the filmmakers put it,
"I wanted to make sure that this was more than a `fish out of water' story... I knew there was much more to be said," says Quinn. "This story was about coming into a new world and, despite the fact the it was daunting and crazy and upside down, I was thinking that once they got their footing, they would turn their attentions back to helping their friends and family in Africa. Which is exactly what happened."
The screening benefits Harvest of Hope, partnering with Church World Service and Ecumenical Refugee Service.

Premier Screening: Thursday August 16, 2007 7:00 p.m. doors open – 7:45 p.m. show, Starz Theatre, 900 Auraria Parkway (Auraria campus). Hosted by Stephanie Riggs
Tickets: $10 per person

Additional Screenings:
Wednesday, August 22, at Park Hill United Methodist Church, 5209 Montview Blvd.
Thursday, August 23, at Temple Emanuel, 51 Grape St.
7:00 p.m. doors open – 7:45 p.m. show
Tickets: $10 per person

On a related note: John Bul Dau, one of the young men profiled in God Grew tired of Us, will be the keynote speaker at the 2007 Harvest of Hope Dinner at the Denver Performing Arts Center in October. To learn more about the event and Mr. Dau, visit here.

African Community Center will host an all-you-can-eat breakfast on Sunday, August 19, from 8:00 a.m. to noon.
Pablo's Coffee, 630 E. 6th Ave., Denver
Breakfast will include pancakes, sausage, juice, and coffee. There will also be entertainment, a prize drawing, and a jump castle for the kids.
Tickets are $5 presale, or $7 day of the event. Advance tickets are available at the Safari Seconds Thrift Store (410 Broadway), The Learning Center (1601 Downing St.), Pablo's Coffee, or through Kevin Mohatt at ACC: 303-399-4500.

Feeling in the mood for a little culture?
The First Annual Russian Festival
Saturday, August 25, 2007
10: a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Creek Side Park
4400 E. Virginia Ave.
Glendale, CO 80246

Food, live music, dance performances, children's concert, face painting (with a Russian flair), arts and crafts, Russian history mini-museum, and more! ADMISSION AND PARKING ARE FREE!!! 303-699-1252

Speaking of Glendale…
Did you know that Swallow Hill Music Center presents a folk music concert in Glendale every Wednesday evening in the summer? Tickets are $10. It's not free, but it could be a fun splurge for you and your student. Shows are at the Four Mile House Historic Park and they begin at 6:30. Click here for more information.

Food for thought
If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.
--George Bernard Shaw

Whew. I think that's it. Don't forget I'll be out of the office for two weeks. Please report your hours as soon as possible—I really don't want to spend a minute here that I don't have to during my vacation.

As always, thanks for all you do! I never cease to be amazed by your dedication and creativity. You inspire me!
"I have learned much from my teachers, but more from my students." --Maimonides