By: Tom Bentley
The start of the year was not that great for one of my third graders, Eva. I would see her during tutoring sessions, my math class after school, as well as my after school homework center and she made it known that she did not like the new city year people or the classes we were teaching. The first two weeks of our tutoring sessions would consist of me asking her questions and her giving me very brief responses. I started to think to myself “How am I going to get this third grader who is only reading forty-one words per minute up to grade level (one-hundred words per minute) when she won’t even tell me more than five words about herself?”
After those first two weeks, I knew that something had to change. I worked tirelessly at making every tutoring session an incredibly positive experience for Eva. I made a special effort to notice and praise her for every little thing she did correctly. As time passed, I saw her confidence build, not only based on her test scores but in the way she behaved. She was much more comfortable around me and seemed to trust me a lot more. I still remember the day she asked me to start calling her a new name, Jack, and how happy she was that we could do something playful like giving each other nicknames.
As our relationship developed, I started playing with her at recess and showing her that I am more than just someone who is going to help her with school work. Soon she was coming into the City Year room some mornings to say hi and hang out before school. She started eating lunch with me one or two times a week where she would tell me everything about her day. Within the first few months at school I felt we really had a strong connection. She started sharing a lot more with me about her family, her life at home, and even the boy she likes at school.
Now things are much different from the beginning of the year, not only between Jack and me, but also who she is as a person. She likes school and City Year a lot more. She has almost doubled her literacy score, reading eighty words per minute during the last testing session, and is on track to finish the year above grade level. Every day she comes to school with a smile on her face, eager to learn. While I have worked on a lot with her, I do not think there is anything more rewarding to me than the fact that when my service is over, I know that she will still be coming to school with that same smile, eager to learn.