From Fear to Friendship

Hadley Standring is the current Masters of Social Work (MSW) Intern at New American Pathways, serving with the Resettlement and Resource Navigation and Communications Departments. In Early 2015, she began volunteering as an English at Home volunteer. Here, she shares her experience as a new mentor. 

Taking the first step to become an English at Home tutor is intimidating. Indeed, the word “tutor” assumes that you are the expert in a subject. But fear not, your ability to speak fluent English is expertise enough.

February marked the beginning of my English at Home experience. Each Monday afternoon, I meet with my “reading buddy” for two hours. Together, we learn and practice English vocabulary and complete activities based on modules from the course handbook.

By nature, I’m an introvert, so it took courage for me to ask to be paired with a reading buddy. After my first English at Home session, I left feeling deflated. I wondered if I was meeting my buddy’s expectations as a tutor, or if she was bored with the activities, or even if I was a good match.

When I shared these concerns with Kelsey Smith, the English at Home program coordinator, she assured me that these feelings were normal and reminded me that there is success in every session. As I’ve continued meeting with my reading buddy, I’ve learned that the English at Home program is so much more than the weekly tutoring sessions. This program encourages the tutor and tutee to develop a companionship and offers a safe space for learning in a nonthreatening environment.

As with many of the families I have become close to at New American Pathways, hospitality and nourishment are two of the highest forms of respect offered to guests or friends. During one of recent sessions, my reading buddy asked if I’d like to stay for coffee. As I nodded yes, she switched on the coffee pot and offered me a seat at the kitchen table. Without hesitation, she also heated soup on the stove and later served homemade tiramisu.

What started as a gracious gesture of coffee turned into a comforting break to sit together as pals. By the time our coffee was ready, her children had awoken from their naps and were insistent to receive attention from their mom – as three and four-year-olds do. Without having to act out English phrases or repeat new words, she, her boys, and I sat at her kitchen table and enjoyed a meal together as friends.