Maggie Shelledy

Hello again! Well, it’s officially been more than two months since P’SERVE began and it has been a loaded two months.Briefly, highlights include: making the house our own by moving the couch and decorating the walls, exploring Baltimore (especially by means of its free public bus!), getting to know my housemates even better over fall retreat, and settling into my new job at the Esperanza Center.


The best way to describe a day in my life at Esperanza Center (a resource center for immigrants in downtown Baltimore) is probably to share the only homework I’ve received since graduating college last May.  Before our Esperanza Center staff retreat, everyone was asked to make a time diary.  What is a time diary you ask? Exactly what you’re suspecting: a detailed jotting down of exactly how I was spending my day.

Something like this…

8:45 AM – Arrive and put lunch in refrigerator

8:50 AM – Turn on computer and respond to emails

9:00 AM – Catch up on student intake forms from class last night

9:20 AM – Assemble new student folders and file used ones

Etc. etc.

The idea behind the time diary is to focus on how you spend your time, to realize when your peak production hours are, to acknowledge which distractions pop up, and to reflect on how you deal with them.  On retreat, we discussed in pairs what our experiences were with the exercise and what we realized because of it.

My main takeaway from the exercise was that during the two-hour English as a Second Language informal class sessions, I had huge blank spaces in my time diary. It wasn’t that I had nothing to record during class time, I was just (at times, literally) running from thing to thing and had no time to spare to write anything down.

Let me explain further…

My Project SERVE work site is the Esperanza Center, a resource center for immigrants, and I specifically work with the English as a Second Language program. We offer four different classes to clients: computer classes, citizenship classes, formal English classes, and informal English classes. Each class is really something special but our informal classes are decidedly unique.  For the two-hour sessions, each student or a small group of students is matched with a volunteer-teacher from the community. That way the class session is personalized to the student; we offer a guided curriculum with different weekly topics for the volunteer-teachers as a starting-point but then it’s up to the student and teacher together to decide what will be most beneficial for the student.

My central responsibilities revolve around the day-to-day operations of the informal English classes. As students and volunteers arrive, I pair them up based on the student’s English proficiency, how many years of schooling they have, the volunteer’s knowledge of the student’s native language, and other factors. As class gets started, I keep track of which students need to take the placement test again to see if they should be moved up a proficiency level. I’m available to volunteers who might need suggestions on activities or readings that fit the student’s level and to students who might have questions about other resources that Esperanza Center offers. Then after class, I track attendance, catch up on paperwork, and work on other projects to keep the ESL program working smoothly.

It’s been incredible getting to know the students and the volunteers; I’m really grateful to be here. I personally find it very rewarding to be a part of creating and maintaining a space like the ESL informal classes where everyone is welcome and encouraged to be the best that they can be. More stories and updates later this month!