Tutor Pair Spotlight: Sabrina and Dee

January 24th, 2018

“I told my husband, Howard, that I’m going to be interviewed. He says, ‘why?!’ I said, ‘Because I am a good student!’”

Tutor Dee (left) and student Sabrina (right)

It’s mid-morning at the Gaithersburg Library and LCMC student Sabrina and her tutor Dee have met for their weekly tutoring lesson. Sabrina’s husband, Howard, is also an LCMC student, with a different tutor. Sabrina looks tickled that she and her tutor were asked to be interviewed, and her playfulness and slightly mischievous sense of humor is evident throughout our interview.

Sabrina came to the United States from China and signed up to get an English tutor in February of 2015. She and her husband both needed help learning and refining their English, though they had both studied English in China.

When their lessons began, the couple had an infant son and a daughter starting kindergarten. “I would sit outside with the baby while Howard was in his lesson. Then he would finish, and I would give him the baby, and I would go in for my lesson with Dee.” It is clear Sabrina and Howard were committed to ensuring that as their children grew up in the United States learning English at an early age, they would be keeping up.

Sabrina emphasizes how her young daughter’s approach to school in a new country inspired her. “She was only five years old, but she goes to school on her first day and comes back, and I ask her, ‘Did you like school?’” Sabrina impersonates her daughter’s enthusiastic, sparkly response with a big smile as she quotes her. “She says, ‘Yes!’ I say, ‘Did you understand what everyone was saying?’” Sabrina shows how undaunted her daughter was by not changing her level of enthusiasm as she quotes her daughter replying, “No!”

“Since I’ve learned English with Dee, I can listen and more understand while I listen. But speaking is a harder, maybe because I am shy. My daughter is not shy; she does not have this problem. She can speak English to everyone.” Sabrina watched how her daughter plunged into kindergarten fearlessly and quickly learned her ABC’s, and found herself wanting to be more like her young daughter.

Sabrina and Dee practice pronouns and conversation with these handmade characters

For Dee’s part, that shyness is something the pair has worked on, incorporating it into Sabrina’s practice. To help Sabrina practice what the book teaches, Dee gets creative.

“One time after we worked on a lesson with money, we took a field trip,” Dee begins. “We went next door to Dunkin’ Donuts and she had to order everything. She ordered donuts and coffee.” Dee gave Sabrina money, American currency she was not used to, and Sabrina had to count out the bills and coins to pay at the register. “Then we took it next door to the fire station and donated it [to the firefighters], and she had to explain to them what we were doing. I was really proud of her, because that was a lot! And she did a great job.”

Dee’s knack for coming up with creative lessons was not something she was sure would come naturally at first. “A friend of mine brought me a flier from the library, and it was a flier for this program, to be a tutor. I hadn’t intended on actually doing it, but my friend thought I’d be really good at this.”

Dee had taught high school for six years and coached a few teams, but had never tutored a speaker of another language. When she did some reading on LCMC’s tutoring program, she decided to attend the training to become a volunteer tutor. “My fear was I wouldn’t be able to communicate to her where we would meet, when we would meet, but that actually was very easy, I got a calendar out and she understood some important basics because she had some lessons in China.”

Sabrina is adamant that she got very lucky in getting Dee as her tutor. Sabrina’s shyness disappears around Dee, and she now has a new goal to be even less shy, and even more involved with her daughter’s life at school. “Last week we had parent-teacher conferences. I want to be able to go to my daughter’s school and I want to understand what the teacher tells me.” She adds, “And I hope I can become a volunteer in her classroom. The parents volunteer, for example on Halloween, and [decorate] the classroom, putting out the food and drink. I want to do that.”

Her wish to be involved in her daughter’s class is reminiscent of another student recently featured, Risala. Though Sabrina and Risala have had different life experiences, come from different countries, started out speaking different languages, and started at different levels with their English, they have two big things in common. They are both moms. And as moms, they both want to be actively involved in their children’s education, and give back to their communities.

Sabrina looks at Dee, smiling gratefully, and explains, “I want to volunteer to help my daughter’s teacher, the way my teacher has volunteered to help me.”

 

To become a volunteer like Dee, click here to attend an informational session on the requirements of our tutoring program. Can’t commit the time to volunteering but want to support students like Sabrina? Donate here!