Being Present as an Engage Literacy Tutor
In this week’s blog, we share a student interview with Engage Literacy tutor Sharon Cheng, studying for her MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Learn about Sharon’s background, why she enjoys working with youth, the lessons she has learned, and the advice she gives to future Engage Literacy tutors!
Tell me about yourself. Where are you from? What are you studying? What year are you?
I am an international student from Taipei, Taiwan. I came to the US eight years ago and am currently completing my masters in the School of Education, specifically teaching English to speakers of other languages. I’ve always been interested in teaching. As a bilingual person, I felt inspired to think about the struggles I encountered with my own learning and use my experience to help students who may have similar struggles in school.
How have you incorporated your lived experiences into supporting students in the Western Addition?
My personal experience has definitely shaped my ability to support the Western Addition community. I used to work with children on the spectrum. I learned that everyone is unique with different personalities and skills. When working with students, I open up about how to interact with people, their learning styles, and their cultural differences. I am always thinking of how to make learning more engaging and creative. Something I always think about when interacting with students is, ‘how do I best work with students in a way that fits their needs?’
What age range do you work with?
I’m working with kindergarten through third grade. I’m grateful to have worked with different school grades thanks to ESF. It’s interesting learning about how students work at different ages and stages. I want to encourage students to learn on their own, but I also want to let them know that I will support them if they are having trouble during their learning process. I want my students to feel like they have a safe space and not feel defeated or unmotivated when it comes to new challenges. I’m learning the balance of when to help students versus challenging them to work independently.
How did you become involved in the ESF Literacy program and why did you return?
When I began my master’s program in the Fall of 2021, I was looking for student employment opportunities. Because of my previous experiences, I knew I wanted to continue working with children. I learned more about ESF through the website and what the role pertains to, so I was excited about the opportunity. I was especially excited about being in a community and supporting local teachers because I know they are overworked. I like how we can go into the classroom to support local teachers and how I am serving the community. I really align with the mission of ESF.
I returned because I love working with children, and I had a great experience every semester. I love working with the students and did not want to miss the opportunity. I also really like the ESF team!
What has been your happiest/most impactful memory while working at ESF?
There’s a lot! The most impactful things are often unexpected things. Every time I return to class, the kids greet me and give me hugs. Walking into class and watching the kids light up and enjoy my presence, is one of my happiest memories of being an ESF tutor.
I also love seeing the process of watching them grow and the effort they put in to get there. When they can understand a concept they’re learning or I see them trying really hard, I feel happy for them and glad to be part of their journey and help along the way.
What advice would you give future ESF literacy tutors?
I would say be present and involved in the classroom. Be part of the class — don’t be a stranger! There is so much learning to happen when you are in the classroom. Take the initiative to interact with the students and teachers. Sometimes if the teacher is busy, I may join the students to see what they are doing. There is so much more the program can offer you when you are actively involved.
What have you learned during your experience as an ESF tutor in developing your knowledge about social justice and equity?
Another aspect I like about ESF is that the program team always sends tutors social justice resources. From this access, I have learned a lot more about different racial identities and their history. I was not as exposed before ESF, especially coming from a country where everyone looks like you – I wasn’t aware. Learning about social justice and equity has helped me develop my approach to working in these spaces.
How does your time at ESF connect with your career goals?
Teaching has always been my passion. Having the opportunity to work with different children has helped me with my teaching career. When it comes to teaching, you are trying to help people with diverse needs and finding the balance of doing it in a group setting. Being present at ESF and within the classroom has helped me develop my skills in working with different students at the same time while making the experiences engaging and impactful. I’m really impressed by our teachers – their patience, their understanding, and dedication.
Join the Engage San Francisco’s Literacy tutor team and partnerwith Rosa Parks Elementary School, Cobb Elementary, Booker T. Washington Community Center, Magic Zone, and Prince Hall Learning Center. As an antiracist culturally informed tutor, you can help K-5th graders in a historically Black community of The Fillmore District and Western Addition with reading and homework. Tutoring starts in September and October and features a flexible schedule that allows you to work anywhere from 4-20 hours/week. We encourage students with federal work-study to apply. Questions? Contact EngageSFLiteracy@gmail.com to learn more. Apply here!