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June 2001.

English tutoring by email

By Jan Reilly

In my family I was always the “well one”, the one who looked after the others, but in 1987, when I was 43, I contracted a flu-like illness so severe I felt I would die. Two years later I was still very ill and was eventually diagnosed as having what was then called M.E. and is now known by the very inappropriate name of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. From there it has been downhill all the way. I have developed many immune system diseases, including breast cancer, and have had to resign from my work.

I am now 57. Because I began work at a time when women did not get superannuation I have become totally reliant on a disability support pension. More importantly I have had to re-invent myself as someone with disabilities. It has been a difficult change for me and the people who previously relied on me.

Jan at work - 19858 Bytes

Getting started ...

In my work life I have been, amongst other things, a teacher and a community health worker. Using my experience I started a very small business tutoring school children at my home. I advertise for students in the local paper and was once very surprised when a university student asked me to help her write her essays. She was a mature student working and studying part-time; she did not have time to go into the university campus where she could have got help with her English expression.

I was able to help her organise her material and write more effectively. I found that I enjoyed working with another adult. It was great to be able to discuss interesting ideas, something I used to be able to do at my workplace and now miss very much. To our mutual satisfaction she received very high marks and is now able to put her thoughts in writing very well by herself.

In my association with people with chronic illnesses and disabilities, the subject of tertiary education often arises. Students speak of many difficulties and current Ph.D. research on tertiary students with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome confirms that people with chronic illnesses/disabilities find it very difficult to access existing campus based services. With this knowledge and encouraged by my successful work with my first tertiary student I decided to expand my tutoring activities to make it possible for tertiary students to e-mail me their essays and speak with me by telephone to improve their writing skills. I have now worked successfully with several students this way and have organised a bankcard facility for phone payment if desired.

My big problem at the moment is letting students know where I am and how I can help them. Most advertising is outside my meagre budget and despite government rhetoric about helping people to get off pensions I can’t find any department anywhere who can help me with a bit of money for publicity.

I would like to be self sufficient again one day but just being involved in satisfying work would be wonderful. I find it easy to become discouraged by the difficulties of being isolated and ill when I don’t have other things with which to fill my mind. Even just planning my new venture has been engrossing; I hope it will be somewhat financially successful as well.

My e-mail address is: janlreilly@hotmail.com

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