Research and Practice in Adult Literacy – a friendly group

Kym Ivory

Kym Ivory, Churchill Education

I have been married for twenty eight years and am a mum of four of a blended family. I have nine grandchildren whom I adore. I have had many different jobs including, a full time tip truck driver, a head cook in a cafe, a vocal coach, mentor/counsellor, kitchen hand, shop assistant, choir instructor, producer, director, motivational speaker and events organiser to name a few. I love looking after my grandchildren and nurturing their future. I love to write and am in the process of writing my first book. My passion right now is to become qualified to work in the education arena and help as many children as I can to realise their dreams and aspirations, no matter how big they are, to materialise.

The journey so far…

I didn’t make it at high school past year 11 and did VCE year 12 at a TAFE college in Geelong. I failed miserably and wound up pregnant and lost. It was years before I recovered enough to stand tall. Back then I was seventeen. As I look back at fifty-two, I find the struggles and journey worth every step it took to climb out and I don’t think I would change anything.

I began to volunteer at Lifeline and became a telephone counsellor. I kept training and became a facilitator and began to train others to answer calls from people in crisis, hardship, loneliness, loss and grief. It was so rewarding. I felt like I was giving something back to a society that, although didn’t necessarily understand my situation as a single mum in 1981, did gear me up to help. It geared me up to help those I trained to understand that people come from different walks of life and our job was never to judge but to listen and respect those in need.

We moved to another state because of hardship ourselves and I was faced with the prospect of home-schooling our daughter. Another journey began. It was a tough decision because I would be responsible for her education. I second guessed myself many times before finally embarking on this epic journey. It turned out to be the best thing we ever did. To see her being harassed at school and failing miserably, to becoming an independent, self reliant, compassionate, intelligent communicator who owns and runs two businesses and has employed over twenty-five staff in fifteen years, who is now Australia’s first remedial massage business coach, is proof to me that I made the right decision. It’s not for the faint hearted and I planned much of her education around teaching her how to learn. She is still learning, and has two of her own children now.

Along the way, I had the privilege of being asked to mentor two boys at the same secondary college. One whose mother had died when he was fifteen and he himself had an eye disorder that would send him blind by the time he was twenty. The other was a bright thirteen year old who struggled to articulate his ideas when doing English assignments. The fifteen year old was closed and grieving both his mother’s death and the prospect of never having a licence, seeing his children or being independent. It was really hard at first. Our conversations were short and closed. It seemed nothing could unlock him. I kept at it, knowing that there had to be something that would connect us. I found it in a trip he had taken with his dad a few months earlier. After six weeks together in a room filled with awkward silences, I brought along my year ten photos of a trip to Ayers Rock (Uluru) and showed him. He looked at them and a smile appeared on his face (at my expense of course), at the sight of the photos from the seventies. We found common ground and he began to slowly but surely unpack his trip with me. We made it into a report complete with photos. I never gave up on the task I had been given. It was an exciting day. We then moved to classes he liked in the next weeks and months including textiles and IT. Life had found him and I was honoured to share the journey back with him.

The thirteen year old came to me in such an anxious state. He could read, write and speak well about what he had read but when it came time for the written assignment, he floundered. His teacher at the time was just impatient and there was no time to ‘wait’ for him. His assignment was due in the next few days and he was a mess. We got out those questions and he answered every one of them and I wrote down the answers word for word for him. He then wrote it all out in his own handwriting and then handed it in the following day. When I saw him the following week, he was so excited to tell me that he had passed!! All I had to do was believe in him. That’s all he needed. I was with him for another term and learned so much about his life and we directed learning around what he loved and it worked. Always keep going, try new things, take risks, never give up.

In recent years, because of my love for singing and my passion for music, I became a vocal coach and taught in my little home town. I wanted to bring something to my community that was otherwise inaccessible apart from a long drive. I taught and mentored children for three years from my home and then began to go into schools to teach basic vocal, choir and stage presence. I wrote a six week program and have run it with great success twice now in the local primary school. From that program I was asked to write, direct and produce the end of year school concert. It was a wonderful success and from that came a job to teach it to the whole school. The teachers discovered a creativity in some of their students that they had never seen before. I was overwhelmed. I have never had formal training and so this year I decided to do something about that and began a Diploma of Education Assist. I thought I could do so much more with a qualification to help children develop their hidden gifts and talents that would lead to them becoming confident, independent, resilient, capable, strong adults who would know who they are and want to contribute to society like I have had the privilege to do so often in my life.


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