One of the most heart-warming moments in TNKR is when we welcome new refugees. We start with the Individual Education Plan (IEP). The main point: We want them to be thinking about taking charge of how they study. TNKR is a self-directed education project, so the refugees need to be active participants, not just waiting for tutors to do everything.
The result is that refugees are more engaged and the tutors are more inspired. Some of the tutors are a bit nervous in the beginning, especially when they realize that we aren’t just another institute or school handing them a textbook that everyone complains about (but expects to be assigned).
Most of the students are at the A-B-C (or D-E-F) level of English. Of course, some are advanced or intermediate, but that is not the typical case.
From the end of December until today, TNKR co-founders Casey Lartigue and Eunkoo Lee have interviewed 13 refugees who are eager to enter our program. The refugees had two main questions:
“Why didn’t anyone tell me about this sooner” and
“When can I start?”
A few of the refugees we just interviewed had heard about us, but didn’t consider joining until they saw a refugee friend studying in TNKR advance in English. They had escaped to South Korea at the same time and studied together at a refugee school. One refugee studied in other programs and schools while her friend joined TNKR. Her friend has advanced quickly. When she saw that, she decided to apply to join TNKR.
Of course, I’m sure if we check with her friend that she will feel that she has not advanced.
Whatever is the level of the students, we do our best to get them prepared for studying 1:1 with tutors. Many people don’t think it is special that we don’t recruit students, but when we talk to directors or managers of other organizations, they are amazed. One recent visitor who has been involved in different civil society activities couldn’t believe it. His organization has money, influential members, but they struggled finding people who would have benefitted from their activities.
There are some other great stories from the recent interviews, some of which I will share in a future blog post at the Korea Times.
We are recruiting tutors now, check our upcoming events. http://teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org/event/
Whatever the level, it makes us feel we have taken the right approach.