A Midyear Reflection on My Transformative Journey with Literacy First  

Reflection written by Samira Lott, 2023-2024 English Literacy First Tutor 

As we begin the new year, Literacy First AmeriCorps tutors are preparing to enter the second half of their service terms. The end-of-year winter break comes right at a time when burnout and compassion fatigue can hit particularly hard, especially with the added stress of the holidays. We’re working to leave our tutors with awareness and tools to implement self-care practices and prevent burnout. Just this week, tutors attended a training on pathways to mental healing and received a mental health toolkit. (Thank you to Wisdom en Familias for joining us to guide a session on Collective Care & Wisdom!) Tutors learned that self-reflection is one such tool that can contribute to spiritual well-being and balance.  

Over the break, one of our tutors, Samira, reflected on her Literacy First journey up to this point. In addition to serving at her assigned school as a tutor, Samira seeks out community partnerships to explore her passions, such as conservation, and connect with other local organizations in Austin. Read the reflection below to learn what Samira has learned from her service experience over the past few months and what she looks forward to in this new year.  

The first semester of tutoring has been a transformative journey filled with valuable insights and experiences that have shaped my perspective on education and community engagement. As I look back on the initial months of my service year, several key learnings stand out, which now pave the way for an exciting second half of my tutoring adventure. 

One of the most significant lessons I’ve acquired is the ability to navigate burnout effectively. The demands of tutoring, coupled with the emotional investment in my students’ well-being, posed challenges that required resilience and self-awareness. Through self-reflection and seeking support from colleagues, I developed strategies to maintain my energy and enthusiasm. Recognizing the signs of burnout early on allowed me to implement proactive measures, ensuring a sustained and positive impact on my students. 

Samira posing in front of their classroom bulletin board at the beginning of the semester.

I’ve noticed an increased confidence in my social skills with both children and adults. Engaging with students in a meaningful way goes beyond traditional teaching methods. I’ve discovered the importance of building authentic connections, understanding each child’s unique personality, and tailoring my approach accordingly. Similarly, fostering relationships with teachers has proven instrumental in creating a collaborative and supportive educational environment. This has not only enriched my tutoring experience but also contributed to a more holistic and effective learning environment. Another significant aspect of my learning journey has been the exploration of diverse resources available to educators. From online platforms to community resources at the library, I’ve discovered a wealth of tools that enhance the teaching and learning experience.  

Reconnecting with the excitement of reading has been a personal highlight. Rediscovering the joy that reading brought to my own life has fueled my commitment to making learning, especially reading, a fun and enjoyable experience for my students. I’ve delved into research to find innovative ways to infuse creativity into lessons, ensuring that education is not only informative but also captivating. 

Samira with one of their students before the winter break.

My sensitivity has remained a constant companion throughout this journey. The emotional well-being of my students deeply affects me, and I prioritize creating a safe and supportive space for them. A pivotal moment came during an introspective conversation with a student’s teacher. This encounter shed light on the depth of my sensitivity as an educator. The incident involved a student who, on a challenging day, required a sit-down discussion about his attitude. In an effort to maintain consistency, I refrained from allowing him to color his motivation chart as we hadn’t completed the lesson. However, I felt a pang of regret afterward, recognizing that he, like me, might be affected by difficult conversations. 

When I confided in his teacher about the encounter, seeking guidance, her response struck a chord. “So, this is more for you than for him then?” she remarked. It was a moment that left me unsettled. However, it forced me to confront my own emotions and acknowledge that, yes, I related to my student at that moment. My sensitivity, far from being a weakness, emerged as a strength—an empathetic quality that allowed me to connect with my students on a deeper level. 

Looking ahead to the second half of my service year, I am filled with anticipation for the professional development opportunities that await me. The Texas A&M Nonprofit Career Development Certification available through OneStar and the Life After AmeriCorps Conference organized by AmeriCorps Central Texas promise to enhance my skills and broaden my perspective on community engagement. Introducing a part-time job to my schedule as well presents an exciting opportunity to expand my network, meet new colleagues, and deepen my connection to the Austin community. 

Another promising endeavor I look forward to involves volunteering with an environmental education nonprofit called Families in Nature that focuses on families and children. This aligns with my commitment to community involvement and complements the valuable partnerships I’ve already established, such as one with the Austin Public Library (APL) system. To supplement my AmeriCorps service, I volunteered at APL helping with children’s events and activities. Although my current library partnership is concluding, I am eager to explore alternative ways to collaborate in the community and potentially work with another youth-centered organization, Communities in Schools. 

In conclusion, the first semester of tutoring has been a rich tapestry of growth, discovery, and connection. As I embark on the second half of my service year, I am poised to continue my commitment to student development, community engagement, and personal and professional growth. The challenges and triumphs of the past months have laid a solid foundation for the exciting journey that lies ahead.