Reading Turns a Frown Around

All of our tutors are guided by the Literacy First staff supervisors, who have years of teaching experience. In practice, this means that they not only understand the intricacies of teaching reading and the importance of literacy to lifelong learning, but they also help our tutors build strong and caring relationships with students. This support for working with the whole child is invaluable, especially when a student may have a difficult day!

Anna Bradley is a second-year AmeriCorps member. This year, Anna became a leader, using the skills she learned from her first year in the program as an on-site mentor and model tutor for the newer members on her campus. As we dig into the school year, we’ll be exploring the large and small victories that we see at Literacy First. Here’s one of Anna’s….

“Last year, I had a student that I will always remember. He was a refugee from the Middle East. He struggled with his emotions and was easily frustrated. When he was sweet, he was incredibly sweet, but when he was upset, his emotions got the best of him.

I’m not sure how long he had been in America by the time I met him, but it had been long enough for him to speak English well and be up-to-date on all things “cool” in the first grade. Sometimes he’d have trouble focusing during lessons, and I had to learn how to reel his attention back in. And he loved acting silly to get a laugh.

One particular day I went to his classroom to pick him up for tutoring. The teacher was absent and another teacher was watching the class while they waited for the substitute teacher. This class was always crazy when anyone other than their teacher was watching them, so I’d already assumed this day would be a little hectic.

When I walked up to the door, I saw that my student had his head down. He was clearly upset and quietly crying. I told the teacher that I would let him calm down and try to pick him up later that day, or maybe tomorrow. Then I left to go back to my tutoring room. Maybe I could get some planning done or pick up another student a little early. But suddenly, as I was walking, I heard footsteps behind me. I turned around to find my student, still crying, running up to me. I bent down to his level. After I asked him what was wrong, I told him that we didn’t have to do our lesson that day because he was upset and I wanted him to be able to do his best.

But he insisted on going with me. He’d stopped crying by the time we got to the tutoring room, but he was still not fully himself. Very quietly, he started to follow the lesson instructions and do his reading exercises. I was extra positive and made little jokes to try to make him laugh.

And as he went through the lesson routine, he began to perk up. By the end of our lesson, he was smiling, laughing, acting goofy as usual, and he went back to his class with a completely different attitude.

This was one of the most rewarding experiences of my first year because I was able to see just how much the time I spend with my students means to them. This student ran after me to do his lesson even though he was upset because it was fun for him too, it was important to him, and by the end of the lesson, it completely turned his day around.

I love how this program allows us tutors to help the whole being of our students: academically, emotionally, socially. There’s so much to working with Literacy First.”

Literacy First is dedicated to giving all of our tutors the confidence and skills to become a mentor and an ally to all of their students, in addition to teaching reading skills – and stories like this show that we’re doing it well. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Anna!

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