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Life After English Class: Yoko's Story
How did you find the Center for Reading and Writing?
It was in 2003, November maybe. I actually visited other libraries and I was looking for a conversation class. I think I saw a flyer and I thought, the Tompkins Square Library was not far from where I lived, and I tried to come.
How long were you a student for?
I was at the Center for about three years. For the first year and a half I was in Judy's [a volunteer tutor's] group, and then when Judy left, her replacement tutor was Jacqueline.
What do you remember about the class?
I found the tutor was very knowledgeable about grammar, writing. I don't remember when, but gradually I knew the students were hardworking and gradually we became friends.
Coincidentally the class was mostly women. There were some men at different times but at the end it was this group of very sophisticated women, which was nice for a woman my age. We were all generations, too. Some younger than me, some older, but all were eager to learn. I am still in touch with my classmates. I almost feel they are part of my family now: Soraya [a student from Brazil] is my younger sister, Svetlana [another student, from Russia] is my aunt.
What did you do in the class?
Always the teachers encouraged us to write something. To keep writing.
We read newspaper articles and tried to utilize the new words that we learned. Judy said, try to use these words again and again otherwise it doesn't stay in your brain. Jacqueline would give us homework to write a sentence for five words newly learned each week, which was a smart idea. I also learned a lot of grammar from Judy. Even now sometimes when I email her, she suggests ways to say it better.
Tell me more about your tutors.
Looking back on my school life, I am so impressed with Judy, who knows grammar and vocabulary, everything is so rich.
Jacqueline loves reading, and she often recommended books she had read. She is witty, and so kind and generous, for me she is almost like my sister. When I started working at the United Nations she offered me accommodations at her house until I could find another place.
They are role models—I would like to be like my tutor Judy when I am her age, still active, not retired. Both tutors seem to be maximizing their life. I am just talking as a representative of this group, but it was a special group. We were women who had a common goal, or a willingness.
How did you come to work at the U.N.?
I am in a very low position there, but I had to take a written clerical test for the job. How to file alphabetically, sort names by gender, also a mathematics test. The mathematics I studied for by myself with books from the library—I didn't buy any books. One of the tests was how to decode illegible handwriting, which I failed the first time. But my tutor, Jacqueline, helped me. She even collected handwriting samples on flashcards from friends. That's the point I want to make: I was so helped by everyone here, the tutors and students.
Besides the Center for Reading and Writing, in what other ways do you use the library?
I still attend a book discussion at the Kips Bay Library, which was the library closest to my house. At Tompkins Square I participated in a Spanish class. I try to utilize any activities available.
How do you think your life would have been different if you hadn't come here, to the Center for Reading and Writing?
I would have ended up in an average English class. I attended one or two like that. I would not have gained these kinds of close relationships. Usually teachers outside don't spend much time correcting or writing. But here teachers are so enthusiastic about teaching! They stay even after the allotted class time to help. It's different than other places.
Also, probably I wouldn't have thought to take the challenge of the U.N. test. Soraya was job hunting also, so we encouraged each other. I kind of set this goal for myself, too. I wanted to pass the test [at the U.N.] because my tutor Jacqueline helped me a lot to prepare, so there was an expectation. It was nice to bring back a piece of good news to the group.
The winter class cycle begins in January. Interested students and volunteer tutors can locate a Center here.