A lot of what I do every day is literacy development, which involves serving either a group of kids, or individual kids in grades K-4. Together, we focus on reading skills; things like comprehension, fluency, pronunciation, etc. The process is different for every kid, as each kid is on a different level. However, despite what I am assisting them with, I always take time to notice and praise hard work and determination. Whether I am focusing on an upper level chapter book with a fourth grader or sounding out a simple three letter word with a kindergartner, I always notice, appreciate and praise how hard they try.
One day a few days prior to the winter holiday break I was asked by a teacher to focus on reading with ‘Sally’, a first grader. Sally is always cheerful, hard working, and excited to have the help of a teacher, friend or adult. She jumped at the opportunity to read with me and eagerly rushed over to the bookshelf to pick out a book—choosing one from Dr. Seuss, and we sat down together and started reading.
Usually when I read with an individual student—especially those in lower grades—our session doesn’t not last much more than about 10 to 15 minutes before they tend to get distracted and fidgety, and I move on to the next student. Sarah, on the other hand, was determined to finish this book, and I could tell that it was a real challenge for her. She wasn’t breezing through the pages as some kids do when they try to be sly and choose a book they already have memorized. No, Sarah was working tirelessly to sound out and correctly pronounce each and every one of those obscure Dr. Seuss words.
Before I knew it, I glanced at the clock and realized that Sarah had been reading for 45 minutes straight without a single complaint! Finally finishing the last page, we both cheered at what a fantastic job she had done. I was truly and honestly amazed at her focus and determination, and proud of her for sticking it out all the way until the end. We went together to tell her teacher what an awesome job she had done and I left the classroom thrilled that she was so excited and proud of herself.
Then holidays came and went, and school was out for two whole weeks. By the time we came back after the new year, Sarah’s accomplishment was the last thing on my mind. But it clearly wasn’t the last thing on hers: the second she saw saw me on that first day back at school, the very first thing she said to me was:
“Ms. Isla! Remember when I read that whole book to you a few days ago?!!”
She was so excited, just beaming from ear to ear with pride, and I felt so happy for her and I was proud to have been part of her building that confidence. To be proud enough to remember over the whole break and want to mention it to me the first time she saw me–I was just so happy to be able to make that impression on her.
It is moments like this when I can truly see the impact I am making, and it never fails to be rewarding.