I was able to get to work with three children today, all of which I had before. It is amazing and delightful to see progress and disheartening to see them still stuck in some areas. Sometimes it isn’t school that is the problem. Sometimes there are home problems and school is the last thing on their minds.
V was much more focused today, which is encouraging. She likes to draw and make up stories. I’m totally for creativity, but when it is time to work we have to get cracking. She stayed working with me a lot longer this time and did great on her numbers. She still is a little wonky on her letters, but she is getting better.
At the end of my tutoring session today I found out from her teacher that yesterday was an entirely different story. Numbers were impossible. 5 fingers resulted in an answer as varied as 5, 2, and 8. But yesterday she also heard from V that her Mom was in the hospital. Mom is in the hospital because she is an alcoholic. This changes everything. Of course she is distracted. Of course she wants to make up stories. Who would want to focus when that is happening? When you are five your whole world revolves around your mom. If she isn’t well, then everything else falls apart. I will give her extra attention next week.
Sometimes what we give them isn’t learning, it is love. Sometimes the greatest thing is just to spend time with them, one on one, and let them shine. Sometimes the teacher will assign a new child to me just because something bad is going on at home. We work together on them, to help them get over the humps of life. Sometimes healing can come in the form of something as simple as reading a book together.
Today I also had S. He is a delightful Mexican boy, all smiles and sunshine. He worked hard and is doing well. I’m curious how long he will need me.
I only get the kids who are at the bottom. When they are doing better they go to the next tutor. I like the challenge of trying to figure out new ways to get the information into them. Fortunately the kids haven’t realized that there is a pattern to who I work with, so there isn’t a stigma. In fact, when I come on Wednesdays they all clamor to work with me. It is kind of cute. I try to make learning fun, so they just see it as a game. Sometimes when I “pick” a student (I don’t pick, the teacher provides a list for me) he or she will say “Yes!” and think this is great. This makes my job so much easier.
One of the students who gets excited when I “pick” him is J. I worked with him today as well. I think he might be dyslexic. I can tell learning is hard for him. I gave him easy things to work on to build up his confidence. We have a blue letter board that is really cool to work with. Letters are really hard for him, and he was mixing up h and n and u. I can understand that. They look at lot alike if they are flipped around.
Letters are hard. They are just symbols after all. We take for granted how easy it is to read, but really it hard because it isn’t a native intelligence. It is all symbols. This shape doesn’t “mean” this sound at all. There is nothing logical about it. It is rather arbitrary. Nothing drives this home more than teaching a five year old his letters.
At the end I wrote up my impressions. This helps the teacher know what are their strengths and weaknesses. Interestingly they will work differently with me than with her. She and I see different faces. When one is obstinate on one area with her, he will be perfect with me.
When I came in to return my impressions and pick up my keys, J hugged me. Hugs from kindergartners are so sweet. When I first got hugged three years ago I wasn’t sure what to do. I was caught off guard.
We have rules that we learn. Don’t touch strangers. Hold your emotions in.
Kindergartners don’t know these rules yet. Sure, they know me, a little. They know my name, and I work with them a little every Wednesday. But adults who know me better don’t hug me. It is just a social rule. We are a very hands-off kind of society.
But hugs from kindergartners are the best. They are so loving and open. I think the world would be a better place if we all had that kind of love and were able to show it. I think this may be the answer to everything.
Hug more. Cry when you are sad. Go play outside for an hour every day. Color. Take a nap with a teddy bear. Make up stories.
Maybe being a kindergartner is the secret to happiness.