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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Teaching teachers

Sometime back in the spring, we submitted a conference proposal to the organizers of COTESOL, the professional organization for English as a Second Language professionals. The title of our presentation was: Stringing Together Benevolent Enterprise and Basic Skills, or, How to accidentally start a nonprofit.

We believe we have a program worth explaining. Beyond the origins of the program itself, A Little Something has helped the participants acquire language, literacy, and math skills, as well as improved critical thinking and life skills.

Before coming to the U.S., most of the women we work with were not accustomed to having so many decisions to make. They definitely weren't ready for the barrage of options and expectations they now encounter on a daily basis in this country. We believe that the women who are participating in A Little Something have benefited from it so much that we wanted to share the idea with others who might find the idea useful in their programs.

We didn't have a lot of hope that many people would attend the presentation. It was scheduled in the last time slot of the last day of the conference. We kept our fingers crossed that people would come and there would be more people in the audience than there were presenting (six). Jaime, Anna, Susan, Sharon, Haiffaa, and Khadiga were prepared to tell our story to anyone who came to listen.

Our worries were unfounded. About 15 people came to learn about an interesting way to combine benevolent enterprise with basic skills. They learned about the project and the people involved. Two adventurous participants volunteered to be part of a hands-on jewelry lesson--given entirely in Arabic. Thanks to Barb Vaille and our volunteer (whose name we didn't get) for their willingness to try something new!

We'll be doing a similar--but much longer and more in-depth--version of this presentation at the international TESOL conference in March. There are 8,000 people expected at that conference, so with a little luck, A Little Something might just rock the multicultural education world!

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