Today I had a lot of students! M and D, (new students from last week), along with J, S, and V. S once again did not want to work with me. He said that he doesn’t like to read, and since there is almost always reading going on when I tutor, he doesn’t want to. His loss, but other student’s gain. It means more time with the ones who want to work.
We were working with reading easy books, sight words, and numbers today. Each student has a box with books and sight word cards that are at their level. I started with M, in part because he was first on my list but also in part because he was sitting at the edge of the classroom by the door. It seems that he had gotten a little rambunctious during class earlier so he was sent to sit in the doorway to cool down. This is not the first time that I’ve seen him there.
He read two books to me, but then admitted that he had them memorized. He was using the pictures as a clue to what was on the page. This isn’t reading. This is an adaptive technique. This is what you do if you can’t read and you want to make it look like you can. I totally get that. He’s faking it, and doesn’t know he shouldn’t be faking it. The more he relies on being able to memorize, the less he is going to be able to learn new things. When he memorizes he can only do things he has done before.
I got to work with D, the girl from last week who was out. She is a very shy Hispanic girl. She is quite far behind on reading at this point. I suspect I will work with her again.
I worked with J and this time I decided to be firm about actually working. In the past he has occasionally thrown the things we were working with on the floor and shoved them around the table. He is rather wild. I just don’t have time for wild and it isn’t a great behavior to encourage. So the first time he dropped a book on the floor I asked him not to do that. The second time he did was soon afterwards and I said “OK, we’re done” and started scooping up the materials. He got it. He understood I was serious. And he worked and didn’t goof off the rest of our time together.
I’ve not gotten any training on this. I have tutored college students with learning disabilities. Kindergarteners should be easy right? But I don’t have children, and I’ve never spent that much time around them. This experience is certainly on the job training.
Part of what I’m learning is how to tell when the child is legitimately bored or uninterested, and when they are just messing around. Sometimes they just want to play. Sometimes they want to distract me from working with them, which then means they want to play.
I get that. I like to play too. But this is kindergarten, not daycare. It is hard to tell sometimes. There is a bit of dovetailing between the two. The teacher makes work look like play a lot. But I still have to get them to work on the assignment or we are both wasting our time.
It reminds me of when I first started working at the library. I had to set boundaries and limits, otherwise it would all become a big mess right in front of me. When I am at the desk, I do one thing at a time.
I believe that multitasking is just Newspeak for screwing three things up at once. So I had to set limits with the patrons. I had to decide what I would accept and allow and what I wouldn’t. Generally what I won’t allow is someone cutting line unless there is a legitimate emergency. Wanting to have their DVDs checked in right away so they can get more is not an emergency. Also, if I’m getting someone a library card, I have them stay in front of me while they fill it out and I type. This prevents other patrons from interrupting. I think it is best. Otherwise I’ll end up with three patrons who all want cards at once.
I’ve seen how much of a train wreck things become when it isn’t done like this. You can’t please everybody at once, and the only way to do things well is to focus on the person in front of you.
But I don’t really know the rules with five year olds. I’ve tutored for three years and I figure it out a little bit more every week. Perhaps if I tutored every day I’d know how to do it better. But then I realize that each child is different. Each child has her own unique and special way of understanding the world. And while I’m trying to teach her how to read by learning these arbitrary squiggles that we use for letters, she is showing me inside her world.
It is pretty amazing.
I’m grateful for the time I get to work with them, and I’m further reminded that I don’t think I would have the patience to be a teacher or a mom. I can borrow them for few minutes once a week and I’m overwhelmed.