Finding a Voice Through Reading

By Kylee Pearl, 2019-2020 Literacy First Tutor

There are some things you can never be prepared for when it comes to teaching. Although there are many lessons you learn while tutoring, one lesson that has, somewhat unexpectedly, impacted me the most is the relationships I have made with my students. 

Every kid is different. You have to adjust and figure out what works with each student individually. Sometimes that’s how you explain a lesson or talk to them. Sometimes it’s how you sit with them or what you do to get them to listen. Each kid is different, each day is different.  

One of my students, Andrew, rarely talked. From the beginning of the year, I would pick him up from his classroom and we would walk to our room. I would ask him questions and try to start a conversation in the hopes that he would warm up to me.  

It’s normal for kids to feel shy and scared, and there are some who really just don’t like to talk. So, I continued to teach Andrew every day, walking him to and from class, filling the silence with a one-sided conversation. On occasion, he would say a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or laugh at me trying to figure him out. I didn’t mind it, and I don’t think he did, either. 

I took my time with Andrew, letting him know that I was listening when he wanted to talk and cared about what he had to say. Tutoring him allowed me to notice his mannerisms, his insecurities, and just how much he was missing out on, because he simply didn’t understand what was occurring around him whenever reading was involved. I worked closely with him, and as it was with all my students, I began to see the impact learning to read could make.  

When I first started tutoring Andrew, he knew one letter sound. We would work every day on learning one more letter, one more tool for him to begin to understand the words he was looking at. We’d repeat lessons, go over it one letter at a time, one day at a time, all the while building trust between each other. 

Eventually, Andrew started talking more. Months after working together every day, he finally began telling me about his day without being prompted. He would answer my questions, ask a few of his own, and even joke around, trying to get me to react. He started making friends in class, started talking more, and started taking the initiative when I taught him. 

Day to day, it was hard to see all the progress Andrew and I had made. But looking back over months of work and where he started, it was easy to see just how much he grew up over the year and how much he learned.  

I don’t know if it was our lessons, or Andrew getting older, or the learning he did in his own classroom, but it was impressive to see the immense changes that occurred with him. He was talking and trusting and funny. He surprised me and challenged me each day.  Our hard work was worth getting to see him grow into himself, learn how to read, and find his voice.  

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