No question about it, the life of a teacher those last few weeks of school can be extremely stressful. The kids are just DONE, and a teacher’s to-do list looms over the calendar.
Have you read Jen Hatmaker’s Facebook post on her plan to help out her children’s elementary school teachers? She’s sending them $100 for their loyalty and to beg forgiveness at sucking the last five weeks of school. If you’ve been a parent of a child in elementary school, you most likely have signed homework folders, reading logs, etc., etc. The comments to her post are hilarious.
I do not miss those weeks. I have found joy in retirement for no alarm clocks every morning, an afternoon nap if I feel like it, no papers to grade or lesson plans to write.
This year I’ve had the privilege of tutoring a 2nd grader and a 3rd grader every week at a nearby elementary school. Each Thursday I pick up the 3rd grader and we quietly trek through the gym class to the Reading Clinic Portable. We follow a careful plan that encourages comprehension, word attack skills, writing skills, and reading a book on their own reading level. After 30 minutes, we walk back to his classroom and I pick up my 2nd grader.
Kevin began the year as a hesitant reader; he stopped at words he didn’t know, thought about it, and only proceeded if he was sure he was right. His spelling was his biggest challenge in writing a sentence from the story. He read slowly, carefully, and we often ran out of time to complete all the steps.
Sometime in the spring (after many missed sessions in January and February for snow) he improved. His confidence rose; he wanted harder books. In the reading game portion I began testing him on sight words of 2nd grade, then 3rd grade. We even checked out the 4th grade words.
His reading skills improved leaps and bounds. He also lost his shyness with me and made sure I knew when his birthday neared in March. I was sick on tutoring day and could not go, but I surprised him on Friday with bakery cookies. When I showed up at lunch he looked shocked. Grinning from ear to ear, he passed out cookies for each class member.
In May the last tutoring session arrived and when I picked up Kevin I cheerfully announced, “Did you know this is our last time for tutoring?”
He slowed down, stepped back, and said, “This is the last time?” I nodded, and he slowly walked with me to the portable.
We settled at our table, opened the book from the last session, and he began to read. And then stopped, leaned back, and tears began to roll down his cheeks.
This was so unexpected for Kevin that I had to ask, “Is this because it is our last time?” And he could only nod. I sent him to get tissue to give us both time to recover. I pulled out the reading log in the notebook, and we reflected on all the books he had read through the year. I asked him if he realized how much better his reading was compared to the beginning of the year.
He asked me if I would tutor next year, and I told him I would but that I could not be sure I would tutor him. Then I reminded him that he probably would not even need a tutor.
As we walked back to his classroom he asked if I would come to Field Day next week. He wanted to bring me something. I fasked his teacher about the schedule and promised I would try.
I did show up, and I think he enjoyed hearing me cheer him on, but it was hard to know since he just gave me that quick sideways glance and a grin. And of course he forgot about bringing me something, but he often forgot to bring his glasses to school so I was not surprised.
I’m so thankful for this experience – the best kind of teaching: one student, a quiet room, lots of good books, and time. If we only succeeded in raising his confidence, that was enough for me. But the added bonus of improved reading and a boy who shed tears over this time of learning? It’s a moment teachers treasure.