Zooming into a New Role

By Brittany Barcliff, 2018-2019, 2019-2020 Literacy First Tutor

As all of Literacy First knows, life has been different lately. Our 7:30 a.m. morning rituals with our team of tutors have shifted to quiet home-bound Zoom meetings. The boisterous noise of students, each working their way through a new story or skill has hushed to the dulled lull of our own homes. Lunch breaks full of laughter and sharing in memorable moments or challenges have turned into navigating how to restrain yourself from eating all of the quarantine snacks! This new role that we all find ourselves in wasn’t exactly what we had in mind as we entered into our Spring break, gathering ourselves to enthusiastically give out self-made literacy packets and bundles of stories to our students as we sent them off to vacation with a smile.

I believe I may speak for the lot of us when I say our students brought a joy to our daily grind that is sorely missed right now. While I grow more accustomed to connecting over video conference calls and find ways to fill my 30+ hours where I no longer find myself in the rhythm of elementary school halls, I am still at a loss for how to integrate the feelings of loss I did not anticipate. I feel a sense of loss for the connections with students that ended so abruptly, for the camaraderie built between staff and teachers, and for the first-year tutors who anticipated the enjoyment of tutoring and community partnerships for the next 3 months.

I know we are lucky, privileged, better off than so many – for having still kept employment and to be able to use our skills in new, albeit more technological, ways – yet the feeling of sadness still permeates me frequently. The meetings with our cohort and my team allow me to vent about these feelings and find constructive ways to reshape our perspective. Change is inevitable in anything, however the shock has not been lost on many. I try to channel my sadness into motivation for my students and the families, already facing challenges, who now have to navigate new waters daily.

I hope that we can return to a sense of normalcy soon, however I also hope that this return allows us to expand on what we value and how deeply we connect to one another. It’s funny how even the small things that sometimes became tedious about our work, such as hustling through each lunch to get my next student or the minute details of paperwork, become things that I miss doing. I think I had reached a point in my second year of service where I was beginning to lose momentum, and starting to feel like my presence didn’t matter all that much in the grand scheme. I caught myself daydreaming about the next chapter while I was still very much within my current one. By taking this large step back, I am able to analyze these feelings and better see how my mindful presence does impact my team, my students and my community. If we were to return to school, after this pause, I believe I would enter tutoring with a new vigor and mindset of growth, rather than stagnation.

Oddly, I feel that I am able to better recognize the significance of our tutoring in the lives of our students and feel more connected to the mission of Literacy First that we set out on in the beginning. Quarantine has been showing me how vital human interaction and a sense of community is, and the community of Literacy First and the schools we serve are in the forefront of my heart.

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