I went to a refresher course this morning for the Sound Partners tutoring I do. It was tempting to skip it. It was tempting to pretend like I know what I’m doing and just immediately be assigned a new student. But I knew I shouldn’t do that.

My initial training was a two hour class on how to implement the program for kindergarteners. I wasn’t sure which teacher I would tutor for. At the end of the class I was assigned to work for Gwen’s first grade teacher. The instructor handed me the packet that went with the first grade training. I was on my own to figure it out. Not that it was too different from what I just learned. My student pooped out on the program before I ever had an opportunity to give a mastery test. Other tutors had tested him but I never had the chance before he completely shut down and refused to do the program.

As much as I loved working with him I didn’t want to follow him into second grade. So I felt like I needed the refresher course to be ready for a new student. The whole program is scripted. It’s not hard to figure out. The mastery tests scared me though. I wasn’t sure I could figure it out on the fly if I ever had the chance to give one.

It was worth my time to go to the refresher course. I had only spent a couple of weeks tutoring my student with the program last year. When he shut down and refused to work for me I was fine with it. I got the impression that he needed a little more than any reading program could offer. The program hadn’t really challenged him yet and the books were so dumb. I created my own ways of encouraging his reading skills for the 45 minutes we worked together twice a week. I don’t know what the other tutors did. The teacher made it sound like he eventually gave up on the program with everyone. As I sat in my meeting this morning I couldn’t help but feel guilty. Did I let my student give up too soon? Could I have been better at teaching? Sitting there listening to the instructor sure made me feel like I had failed as a tutor!

My mind cleared a little as I drove home. By the time I walked in the door to my house I decided I did the right thing last year. Heath assured me I did the right thing. I know I made a difference in that little boy’s life. His reading had improved. The teacher told me to test him on the same sight word test I had administered to many of her students. He surprised me with how many words he knew. When I showed Mrs. M she was blown away by how much he had read. I don’t think I really taught him any reading skills. But for two days every week I was able to step out of my own selfish mind and be there for someone else. For two days every week he filled me up and blessed me by being the onion he is and allowing me to peel away at his layers. It was not a waste of anyone’s time. We both needed that experience.

Who knows what my student will be like this year? I feel better prepared to follow the rules and let the program work its magic. The instructor was saying that a large number of students had met their benchmark goals last year because of the reading program. Many were reading at grade level by the end of the school year. She kept saying that it gave her goosebumps to think of how well the program was working. It gives me goosebumps too. These children need this extra support. I never mentioned my student or the challenges we faced last year. I think of it as my own delicious secret that I share with Mrs. M. That boy just needed one on one time with an adult. All the adults in his life were too busy to give him the uninterrupted time he deserved. That’s what the program did for him.

I wonder what will become of him. I see him every morning walking to school with his mom as she pushes his little brother in the stroller. I saw his dad pick him up every afternoon for the first three weeks of school. I see him a lot. He never notices me and I doubt he would go out of his way to say hi to me if he did. I don’t mind. He is so sweet and innocent and I hope he stays that way forever.

I hope if he becomes a Sound Partners student again that he can benefit from the program the way he should. I just know it’s time we part ways. If I followed him as a tutor he would never want to try the program and I would forever be trying to find the right books from the library. We both need to grow from new experiences and meeting new people. I don’t know if he will remember me, but I will always remember him. He taught me how to listen to my heart and forget about rules.

It is a little scary to think that there are now enough coaches to service all the schools in the district. Each coach is over three schools. I met my coach today. She seems nice. I also met another tutor at my school. She has a daughter in Gwen’s class. I look forward to this school year. It should be fun. I have no doubt it will be as rewarding as last year was. I will start in a couple weeks. Wish me luck!

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