For the past 11 years, I have been a literacy tutor and now am team leader for Temple Beth Elohim at The Potter Road Elementary School in Framingham through the Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy (GBJCL). I work with third and fourth grades to help develop reading, vocabulary, and writing skills. I’ve also helped prepare students for MCAS testing, which is highly dependent on reading proficiency and efficiency.

The Potter Road School is a happy place—the children and staff are friendly, lots of light filters through the many windows, the walls are covered in children’s work, and signs of welcome and encouragement are brightly painted in English and Portuguese. Many of the students come from homes where English is not the primary language.

GBJCL does a great job of training tutors by providing new learning opportunities, strategies, and curriculum updates, as well as offering monthly sessions.

I love teaching of any kind. I worked in my own children’s schools in various volunteer capacities, including an art analysis/appreciation course for K-5 for over 12 years. Now that they’ve grown, I love having the opportunity to continue being part of a younger world in a school environment. I love learning what intrigues a student; their likes, dreams, and struggles.

Each child I’ve worked with has been very receptive and happy for the focused attention. There is a nice balance between what the teacher and student think they need to work on. I have enjoyed the challenge of finding new ways to make the material more interesting and expanding a student’s interests. Especially gratifying is the one-on-one relationship that develops through our time together. In building trust, I feel it is important to let the students know that I am not a teacher and I will not be grading or judging them in any way. As a teacher once told me, “Sometimes they just need another adult to give them positive time and feedback.”

Although most of my tutoring is spent with one or two students, I have also had terrific experiences working with groups of four or five. These sessions are with students whose academic abilities outpace their classmates and they are hungry for advanced material. We all looked forward to our weekly study of plot, themes, and context. The first time I worked with such a group, we discussed issues of American-run internment camps for those of Japanese descent during World War II. The topic was raised by a student in response to a book set during the time—it was pretty heady stuff for third grade!

Another year I was lucky to have a wonderful student learning to process language differently after finally receiving a hearing aid. Every week I brought an iPad and he learned new pronunciation as we scrolled through photos of familiar objects.

One boy was an amazing artist and totally captivated by world soccer. Reading? Not so much. We had a deal: I would teach him a bit about reading and he would teach me about Cristiano Ronaldo.

Through the years, I have worked with many wonderful students, dedicated teachers, and attentive school staff. And, although the professional reading specialists do the heavy lifting, I feel I’ve made a difference with my time as a volunteer at Potter Road. I know it has given me a truly rewarding experience.

Turns out, tutoring benefits the tutor as well.

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