Kindergarten 11-20-13. Authority figure and progress.

I pray before I tutor. I pray because I think it is a holy obligation to teach children. It is important to raise them well and be a good influence on them. It is important to model good behavior. They need to be shaped. Everything I say and everything I do is being watched by them and it is important to set a good example. I pray that God is able to work through me to help them.

I pray that I’m able to reach them. I pray that somehow I’m able to get in their heads and find the key that unlocks the door. I’ll try anything. It doesn’t matter how they learn, just that they learn.

Today I worked exclusively with V. S and J were on my list but I didn’t get to them. S really doesn’t need me and J took most of the hour last week, so I decided to take him last. It isn’t fair to V if I can’t work with her as well. I’d also heard from the teacher that she was failing her performance tests so it was really important to focus on her.

When I came back to the class with V and they were lining up to go outside, J saw me and had a very sour expression. He really wanted to work with me and it just didn’t happen. There’s only so much I can do in an hour, and since she was doing well, I decided to stay with her. After my time there, he ended up getting to work with Liz, who is another tutor and a friend from yoga class. He was a little dismayed that he didn’t get me, but he still got a tutor. I think he really wants individual attention. What he really needs is for his parents to step up to the game and work with him at home. That may not happen.

V did very well with matching small letters with their capitals. She was also able to quickly tell me what the letters were for most of them. This is a huge improvement over last week. But then we hit a snag. We went to the “insta-learn” board, the one with the orange tiles and the interchangeable letters. I didn’t expect her to match the sound of the letters with the name of the letter, but I did expect her to find the letter after doing so well with the first game.

Roadblock. Full stop. She started trying to find the letter the way J does, by singing the alphabet song until she came to the letter. Except unlike J, she didn’t even start with her finger on the letter a. She would start with a random letter like k. Like J she still couldn’t find it with this method.

Then we switched to the foam board with the letters that push out. It was as if she was back doing the first game. She did it very well. I’ll never know why one version of the alphabet works one day and another doesn’t, but I’ll take it.

The note that the teacher gave me said that she needed to work on numbers. The teacher had a special bin just for her. There was a box of plastic penguins, frogs, and fish inside. They were small and in different colors. Just because we are learning doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with it. Learning is easier if it looks like a game. She did OK with this but she got distracted a lot. She was telling me a lot of stories about her home that I don’t think were true. They sounded a lot grander than the stories the teacher is telling me. I think it is important to listen to her, but also important to get her to stay focused on the task at hand.

Since she was getting distracted, I asked her several times if she wanted to work on something else or go back to class. The kids will sometimes wear out before I think they have, and it is good to ask. When I first started tutoring I didn’t know this. After about 20 minutes of really intense one on one work their eyes start to glaze over and they get fidgety. They are ready to go back to class but they don’t know it yet. Or they don’t know they can ask. There are certainly rules that they have learned about how to interact with adults and other authority figures. Asking for what you need isn’t usually on that list.

I don’t want to be seen as an authority figure. I put the higher chair in front of the table for them and the lower one to the side for me. This way I’m at the same height. I don’t want to be above them because I think that gives a wrong signal. It sets up a hierarchy, and that is certainly something I don’t want to do.

Something that is very important to me is that the children I work with have a sense of control. I’ll ask them what they want to work with first. I’ll ask them if they want to continue or go back to class. I’ll ask them if they want a book at the end of the session. Then if they do want a book, I’ll ask them to pick the one for us to read. Now, sure, I’m in charge. If they start not paying attention I’ll try to get them back. If they want to work on something that is really for another student (as in it is beneath their ability) I’ll dissuade them.

The most important thing for me to remember is that I’m there for them. They aren’t there for me. Sure, I get a lot out of it. Sure, I enjoy teaching them and watching them learn. I feel really blessed that I was there when a girl “got” how to read last year. But they are the ones who need me. I’m there to help them, and helping them isn’t just about learning letters and numbers. It is also about helping them be happy human beings.

I’ll go back in two weeks. Next week school is out because of Thanksgiving. I look forward to how much they have changed. Tutoring is like watching plants grow. Every week there are new signs of growth to appreciate and celebrate.

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Library card

Having a library card is like having a gym membership. It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t use it.

There are plenty of people who come in every four years to vote in the Presidential election and they feel that they have to get a library card. Our library is an early voting site, and we have people come in that normally never go to a library. They feel that it is part of being an American to have a library card, so they sign up. Four years later, when they come in to vote again, they ask if their card is still valid. It isn’t. If you don’t use it in a couple of years it expires. So then they sign up again. Every now and then I’ll ask them if they want to go and find a book first, to see if they NEED to sign up for a card. Nope. They want to get a card. They just don’t want to use it.

Libraries are the most amazing thing ever about America. They present a free exchange of information. With a library card you can unlock any door. You can learn how to do anything. Going to the library is the best way to improve your mind and your life. It is the way out of a bad situation. It levels the playing field.

There are books at the library for everybody. Every now and then they get challenged but they usually get to stay. A book is “challenged” when someone tries to get it removed from the library. It is very hard to remove a book from the library. People don’t understand that just because they don’t like a book doesn’t mean they have the right to prevent another person from reading it. Thus, libraries have a huge variety of books to accommodate the varying needs of the community.

Yet this means nothing if they don’t use their card. What is the point of getting a library card if you don’t use it? There are plenty of countries around the world that don’t have libraries. Just being able to read is something you shouldn’t take for granted.

Plenty of people take the amazing resource that is the library for granted. If they use it at all, they will fill up on movies and fiction. That is just the icing on the cake. There is so much more to the library than this. The most amazing thing about the library is that if you want to improve your life or your community or the world, you can learn how to do it at the library. It is free to everyone.

Well, I take that back. Everybody can come in and use the library. Not everybody can check out. You have to get a library card to check out books and apparantly for some people that is very hard. The rules are slightly different for certain libraries, but in ours you have to provide proof of who you are and proof of where you live. If you live out of county, there is a fee because this library system gets its money from property taxes.

For some people, just being able to prove where they live is like pulling teeth. They will want to show their driver’s license that is from three years ago. They have moved three times since then, and not gotten the ID changed. They will point out that the address on the ID is in this county. That isn’t the point. It isn’t their current address, so it doesn’t count. Every now and then they will get huffy and say they should just have lied and said it was correct. It is very frustrating dealing with an adult who just doesn’t get the value of being honest – and the importance of having the current address on their ID.

I feel that Americans take the library and free public education for granted.

I know a lady from India who was a patron here and then went back home to India. She told me about how there were no free public libraries in India, or at least where she was. There were libraries, but you had to pay to be a member, and there weren’t that many books. Thus, people don’t really read very much.

A community that doesn’t read is a dead community.

Having a card isn’t enough. You have to use it.

If you are poor, education is the way out. Plenty of people will say that the schools are bad in their area, but this means nothing. You can have your education spoon-fed to you, or you can go hunt it down yourself. It also doesn’t matter what your local library is like. No matter what library you use, you have access to the inter-library loan system. Whatever you want, if it isn’t at your library, they can get it for you from another one. So if you don’t get a good education, the only person you have to blame is yourself.

Go get a library card. And use it. The mind you save will be your own.

Goal

I started my blog 12-29-12. I started writing “notes” on Facebook in February, 2012. They were the precursor to my blog. They were a way to get out ideas and share them with a (hopefully) friendly audience. I’d planned on staying with that way of posting my thoughts and then a couple of things happened.

Facebook changed again and made it harder to find the “notes”. And I discovered that I wanted to share certain posts with people who weren’t my “friends” on Facebook. It was either get them to be “friends” or open up my posts to the web. It seemed that starting a blog was the best answer. I was surprised when strangers started reading my blog, and started subscribing to it.

I am grateful for every person who subscribes, and I look at the profile of each one. I know that some will subscribe for one thing and then I’ll post something entirely different. I know that I can’t be everything to everyone. Some subscribe after I post a poem, some after I post a word of encouragement. Then I’ll post something about my abusive childhood and I’m sure it is hard to read. It is hard to write, but it is healing. Recently I’ve figured out how to create posts with a lot of pictures so I can have a little scrapbook of adventures I’ve gone on and things I’ve seen. I’m sure that some people want my posts to be the same as what they originally read.

The fact is that the blog isn’t for them, really. It is for me. It is nice if other people want to read along, but I’m not going to create it any one particular way for any one particular audience. It is an organic, evolving thing. There are repeating themes, certainly, but if it were the same all the time that would be a waste of my time.

I like to be surprised by life. I’m the kind of person that wonders why people read the same books over and over again. There are some books where it really is the same story but just different character names and different cities. I guess some people like the familiarity of it all. Perhaps it makes them feel safe.

That bores me. A lot. Sure, I like some things to stay the same, and in many ways I hate change. But I also like to learn new things and stretch my boundaries and experiences.

As of today, I have 480 posts. Currently I have 159 followers. I average about 20 visitors a day, and each one looks at an average of two things. There have been over 14,000 views of my posts. One particular one has been read over 5,000 times, and still is getting noticed. I’m constantly surprised at what people are finding and rereading.

I have a goal of having 500 posts by the time of my anniversary of creating this blog, and that seems really easy. I had thought that I started it sooner, but I have over a month before I get to that date. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be over it by then. I didn’t have a goal of any amount at all when I started. My goal when I stated was just to have a blog.

I’d started with the idea of posting at least three times a week. Ideally, I wanted to post at least once a day. I started small so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed. I know that if I put a huge goal in front of me I may never get there. If I break it up into manageable pieces I’m more likely to do it. I now post an average of two things a day, sometimes four or five.

I’ve learned how to write all the time. I’ve learned that I don’t have to have an hour to sit down and write. I can write a little something while I’m walking at lunch. I can write while waiting at a doctor’s office. I can write while I’m in line at the post office. My phone and my Kindle are both great tools, and I have a running list of idea “seeds” to pick from. Writing used to be all about handwriting, and it took a while to get used to the idea of typing it instead. It has changed how I write, certainly, but it means that I can post more. Is it better? Time will tell. Perhaps one day I’ll get an assistant who will type up my handwriting and I can go back to doing that.

I’d planned on writing at the computer every morning. Now, it is more often that I type up an idea during the day and I’ll email it to myself. Then I’ll edit it and post it in the morning. This seems to work better for me. It is hard to get away from the creative flow and snap back into the mundane nature of getting ready go to work. There is nothing more jarring that having to switch gears. Somehow this new way of doing it means I’m able to produce more posts.

I’m really proud of some of them. There are some posts that I think I was able to really get my idea across. Some posts I don’t even feel are mine. It is as if an idea came to me and I’m just passing it along. Those are the ones that I’m most amazed by, because the idea is so surprising to me.

Some posts are very personal and intimate. In some I’m working out my own salvation. In some I’m working my way out of my own holes. In some I come to an understanding that is very healing to me. In some I’m sharing my pain to let others know that they aren’t alone and there is hope.

I don’t really expect anybody to read my blog. I need to write it, though. Writing every day is keeping me awake. It is like a date with myself, where I’m honest with myself about where I’ve been and where I am, and where I want to go.

Thank you for being along for the journey.