I’ve been a tutor for the Literacy Council of Central Alabama for about a year now. I went through the training and then came to the council to observe. On the day I came to observe, I ended up taking over a lesson that our program coordinator had started with a student and it went from there. It was the first day this student had come to the literacy council. He had wanted to come for a long time and just hadn’t yet. During our lesson time, he had to stop and wipe tears from his eyes several times because he was so relieved to be there, yet so scared of the task ahead, and so thankful that we were there to help him. He needed our encouragement as much as he needed our teaching.
The staff at the council told me later that they had worried this may have overwhelmed me on my first day, but it was the opposite. I just thought, “Wow! I am hooked! I’m needed here, and what I will do here will be so valuable.” I went home that day feeling I had learned so much about people and paths that lives can take.
Every student I have worked with since then has had a different story, different background, different learning style and has been in a different place on the path of learning to read. I’ve worked with people who are fluent readers but can’t make sense of what they’ve read so they’re working on comprehension. And I’ve worked with students who are still trying to learn the sounds of letters and are struggling to read three letter words. Each person has a different reason for coming. Sometimes we learn their stories.
I feel so motivated every time I walk through the door because the students are so driven to learn. They come here with a huge desire to work and progress. It’s inspiring. Their focus lifts me up and fills me with energy to give my very best every time I tutor. Even if my schedule is really busy and I’ve got a hundred things on my mind, once I walk through the door I’m right here, totally focused on the teaching, because the students are so ready to go and so eager to get there. In many cases, just to get to our building, students have worked hard. They’ve ridden a bus, transferred twice, walked through the cold, walked through the rain or stood in heat and they’re there, eager to get started.
I can’t help but consider the students, tutors, and staff I’ve gotten to know as friends. I my life, I’ve grown to believe that some of my quickest and strongest friendships have formed when I’ve shared a project and labored side by side with someone in school, or at work, or in the community. When people work together we share an effort, a drive, a goal, we share sacrifice, and struggle. When we come to work at the Literacy council, we may find ourselves working with people from completely different backgrounds, different economic levels, different neighborhoods, races, genders, ages, but we’re sharing the goal, the struggle, the drive and that’s bonding. We have commonality in that. And at the same time, we’re learning from each other. There’s so many times in other parts of my life that I’ve gotten into a project and realized, “Ugh! This is so big! Why did I get myself into this. I wish I could get out of this!” Tutoring for literacy is a big deal, but I’ve never wished I could get out of it. I just wish I could be there more than I can be! That feeling of wanting to do more is all based on observing the need of the students. They would love to have more time. It’s a wonderful feeling to be valuable and to really care about the people you are working beside.
A student I work with regularly says this is the first time that he’s felt like learning is working right for him. It’s because our tutoring is individually paced. We adapt to our learners. I’m so grateful we can provide that. Our one-on-one tutoring is an amazing thing for someone who always felt they couldn’t keep up with their class.
Well, gotta go! I’m on my way to tutor.