Teachers, please tell me if you agree: how beautiful is it to see a struggling student come out of her shell and shine????
We will call her Takiya.
She’s eight years old and was held back one year in school, so she’s in a class with seven-year-olds, including her younger sister. One day I brought my son Judah over to play with them and their cousins, and their mother witnessed my five-year-old using vocabulary and spelling words that her daughters could not. He got me my first tutoring job. Before long, Smart Readers’ Club was born.
Her teacher had asked a her question, and Takiya was apparently taking longer to answer than the Miss thought was necessary, so she retorted “What happen, you need to go in de dumb class???”
Takiya is so cute! I began in January, as soon as school re-opened, tutoring both girls. I came to realize that I also needed opportunities to work with them individually, because of their different personality types. Tears come to my eyes even now when I recall the moment that I asked Takiya on one of those early sessions “You know you’re smart, don’t you?” and she responded by shaking her head “No”. I don’t care what child it is, what marks they get, what anyone says, death and life are in the power of the tongue, and if you speak death over a child’s self-esteem, her intelligence, they die inside of that child. I was determined to work a Lazarus on this princess.
Smart Readers’ Club in Sangre Grande
The first thing I did in Smart Readers’ Club was create Book Charts (Free Download below). My students track the books they read on their chart. Each chart can hold 8 books, and I give prizes for a completed chart. As I started out with Takiya and her sister, I also started opening up my church on Thursday afternoons to take on more students, I embarked on an online teaching course on Coursera.org given by Commonwealth Education Trust and I found some books in the library about teaching. I also asked my students what their goals are in life so I could find books that light a spark in them. Takiya wants to go to America and study and become a doctor. So I call her Doctor Thomas every time I see her. I love to see the dimples on her cute cheeks when she smiles at her new title!
Currently, I’m having a year-long book drive, collecting new children’s bibles and Christian storybooks, prayer books and devotionals for children in the community. I was able to give these girls books – they only had one West Indian Reader to share between them. I believe that one great way to encourage children to read is to give them books of their own, that they can write their name in and read anytime they like.
Labor of Love
Towards the end of January, the girls came home with some test results. Takiya didn’t want to show me her low marks. She had failed with marks around 45%. I went over it with her, asked her if she feels nervous during tests, because she knew many of the answers she had gotten wrong. What I said in the end was “You answered almost every question, so that means you did your best, so I am very proud of you, Takiya!”
We continued to work, week in and week out, using techniques I was learning from my course and from books, realizing that I was offering something the schools don’t! I could see her becoming a stronger reader, and stronger in maths also (I do their homework with them too), but moreover, her confidence was on the rise. Then, one day in late February, their mother was livid! She told me about an incident in school.
Her teacher had asked a her question, and Takiya was apparently taking longer to answer than the Miss thought was necessary, so she retorted “What happen, you need to go in de dumb class???” Now I was livid, too! I pray for my students regularly. God guides me to know what kinds of activities to bring with me. On this day, He prompted me to bring some work that was about 3 years below her grade level – Kindergarten worksheets. It was perfect! She needed something easy that day to do so she could start to recover from this devastating blow.
The Good Part!
OK, let me get to the good part. Yesterday, the girls came home with their end term test marks in Grammar and Mathematics. What do you think Takiya’s scores were??
93% and 95%!!!!
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I celebrated with her and praised God for choosing to use me in this triumph!!! Wow, what an amazing feeling to watch a struggling student begin to excel! She is excited about reading – her book chart is nearly full now. Her confidence is up, and she is bearing good fruit. For me, moments like that make hardships along the way seem minimal. This one thing I do: I teach.
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Copyright 2019 Rashida Serrant-Davis, Really Nourish. All Rights Reserved.