English Literacy Civics is a great way for immigrants and refugees to learn about life in America. Lessons cover topics ranging from education and employment to the three branches of government. Classes are held in the conference room of the Rensselaer County Chamber of Commerce at 90 Fourth Street, Troy.  Classes start in October and run through May. Learners can receive up to 150 hours of instruction over a course of 25 weeks.

Teaching EL Civics

By Linda Feldmann

When I became a tutor for Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County in 2003, I didn’t envision myself in a classroom setting. Now I look forward to my time in the classroom as the highlight of my week.

I teach English Literacy Civics, a 25-week course designed to help recent immigrants learn about life in America while improving their English. It’s challenging, surprising, sometimes exhausting, and always rewarding. My students are adults from many countries and language backgrounds. We share our stories, talk about our interests, laugh a lot and find out what we have in common. We learn from each other.

One of the remarkable things about teaching adults is the sense of shared accomplishment. I look at teaching as a partnership, and I think my students do, too. They are determined to meet the goals they’ve set for themselves, and they know that I’m willing to help them get where they want to go. Many have tried to learn English before and have not been successful. In other classes, they’ve spent too much time speaking in their native language and the lessons have failed to keep them engaged. EL Civics is a successful program because it centers on real life issues. It gives adult learners an opportunity to discuss issues that are important to them such as family, education, health and safety, American culture, and U.S. government.

I know how difficult it is to learn another language as an adult, and I know how much discipline it takes to spend six hours a week in a classroom over the course of three months. I admire my students for making the effort. Together we work to expand our understanding of one another by improving our ability to communicate in English. With mutual respect, perseverance, and equally large doses of humor and flexibility, we make gains each week.