First off, I am stealing the subject line concept from Friends episodes. Cope. Second off, not going to be able to blog again until at least Sunday, more likely Monday. However, I’m actually putting up a third entry in one week. I consider my plan of SpiteBlogging™ to be a roaring success.
This past semester I’ve been working with a government funded program tutoring 7th graders at an at risk school. We are there twice a week working approximately 45 minutes with two after school programs. Since we started back in October I haven’t really felt like I’m making any sort of difference with the group I’m working with in the first set of kids. I end up feeling like a glorified babysitter, not really helping any of them learn anything. Pretty much I make sure that they are working on their homework.
Yesterday however the girls were oddly subdued. They weren’t as peppy as normal and seemed rather defeated. I sat down at the table and asked what everyone was so bummed about. Apparently they had taken an English test and the average grade for everyone in the grade was a 61%. The girls were so upset and so completely overwhelmed with their work load, especially going into their winter break.
I let them talk for a bit, about their frustrations, about what they need to do to learn what they need to learn. We talked about action plans and how to not feel so over-whelmed. Eventually one of them asked for help with adverbs and adjectives. We settled in and before I knew it I had seven of them clustered around me.
We worked for a few minutes before one of the teachers came along telling everyone to put their books away because “homework time is over now”. The girls all gave me this look of “but… we need more time.” I asked them if they wanted to keep working. They all nodded with a chorus of “yes please!” I asked if they wanted to skip their activity so we could continue to work. Big nods all around. I asked who I needed to talk to about them staying, and they told me.
Off I went to find the person in question to ask if we could continue working. The look of shock and disbelief actually startled me. He said 1) of course they could and 2) that they had never asked for something like that before. I collected the girls and moved us over to another table, away from the growing swarm of hormonally crazed middle-schoolers.
I have to say that the remainder of the session was like magic. They were getting it, being engaged and honestly learning. When one of them was having trouble, I asked one of the girls who was understanding to explain it in her words and that finally helped the girl who was struggling. It was fun and productive and generally a really positive experience. When the finally stopped to go to Choir practiced they each hugged me tight and said they were looking forward to next week.
What I still don’t understand is WHY a teacher would be encouraging a group of students who are obviously working hard to STOP working hard. They wanted to continue and they did. I really feel like I helped them to succeed a little, get a firmer grasp on their studies and maybe, just maybe I may have made a small difference. At the very least, I made their Thursday just a little brighter.