Take a walk in the park and you never know who you will meet; perhaps a local celebrity watching his son play tennis, a dog walker with the latest poodle cross or perhaps the lovely Clare Richards, Chief Executive of The ClementJames Centre.
On this particular day in 2013 I met Clare in Avondale Park with her trademark bright scarf and smile. Being a chatty so-and-so I stopped and asked how The ClementJames Centre was going. “Really well,” was her reply. We chatted some more. “We’re starting a coffee morning for English students and need some volunteers to talk with them. Would you be interested?” It was a simple question. Quite unexpected. Something I could explore or easily forget about.
Living only a short walk from the Centre, I decided to explore. It would only be for an hour each week. No great commitment. Nothing to lose I thought. But I stalled for a bit as I was struggling with depression and wondered how it would go.
The autumn came, our son was back at school and I decided to go for it. Ender, one of the English tutors, gave me some ideas. We discussed meat-eaters v vegetarians, football, movies and even Remembrance Day. It was one of the best hours of the week; I loved it. I fell in love with the English language in a new way and discovered I enjoyed teaching irregular past tense, pronunciation and giving language quizzes. I thrived on the interaction with the students and also the CJ staff, who always had time to stop and chat to me. I would leave happier than when I’d arrived; my confidence increased and my general well-being grew.
One day, Ender challenged me to attend a semi-intensive course to learn basic skills for teaching English to adults. And so I enrolled for the CELTA course and completed it in July 2014. Now, 2 years later, I’m teaching English at ClementJames as a part-time tutor, regularly spending 12+ hours per week in teaching or lesson preparation. I still love it as much as I did in those early days – the students, being part of the ClementJames community and the challenge of preparing and giving inspiring English lessons.
These days when I walk in the park I often meet students or staff and we even have our own dog now! Are there any more volunteers out there who fancy dipping their toe in the water at ClementJames and seeing what they’ll discover?