Senior Citizens Serve as Writing Mentors
Carol Maurer reported this idea on The American News Service web page:
Unable to give his students the individual attention they desperately
needed on their writing, teacher Joe Greenwald and his colleagues in
Hinesburg, Vermont, came up with the ideas to call on retirees to coach
students -- by e-mail.
The e-mail connections began with a $3,000 grant from the telephone
company. Maurer reports: "The juniors and seniors in Greenwald's
class weren't exactly in a rush to hook up with the elders. Teenagers
were skeptical about dealing with 'the old codgers.' To help bridge
the generational divide, Greenwald took his students to Wake Robin Life
Care Community in Shelburne, Vt., where the elderly volunteers reside.
'The students ignored me, paired up with the elders in corners of the
room, and talked and talked. The only difficulty that day was getting
my students back to school,' he said."
Three years later, each student in Greenwald's Applied English class
is matched with a Wake Robin resident. Other teachers at the school
have started their own student-elder partnerships.
Although both students and mentors praise the program, things didn't
always run smoothly. At times the advisors were discouraged by students'
rudeness, unreturned phone calls and failure to follow through on assignments.
In addition, both advisors and students experienced some difficulty
using the computer. Also, advisors at times lacked confidence in their
own understanding of writing, especially grammar and punctuation issues.
Greenwald advised them to focus on one central issue: "what are
you trying to say?"
Despite problems, the program is seen as highly successful, and efforts
like this not only help students but provide meaningful interaction
between the experienced writers of the community and those struggling
to learn. The power of e-mail opens a whole new realm of possibilities.
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