2015-03-06

By Max Mays, AmeriCorps Member, Heinemann and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Supported Team,
Serving at Henry Wilson Elementary School

As a routine begins to solidify, one day can blur into the next. The details of an interaction with a student may not be distinctly memorable, but the emotions that accompany it always are. Each day as a City Year features an onslaught of stimuli. Occasionally I will reflect on a day, only to find that I cannot recall any specific happenings. The only certainty, when I leave school each day, is that I will feel pride for the resilience of my students, and a hunger to return the next day so that our diligence will continue. 

Moments of unbridled inspiration often arise without warning. One moment, our consciousness is blurred, and the next, the world comes into focus. I experienced a transformation of this sort after a series of conversations with one of my students. I quickly realized after meeting Tyler* that he was unique. Rather than involving himself in the constant chatter typical of a third grade class, he preferred to sit quietly, alone. Tyler* followed directions religiously, but only if they were announced audibly. After approaching Tyler* for a one-on-one literacy intervention, I learned that his reading skills were far below grade level. After further examination, I found that Tyler* could not recite the alphabet or spell his name. For the next few weeks, Tyler* and I met daily to practice these essential academic building blocks. The work was tedious. Mistakes were redundant, but perseverance prevailed. 

Tyler*, however, had a more ambitious goal in mind. He wanted to see significant improvements on the sight word list that he had struggled so significantly with. If a spare minute was provided during class, Tyler* would ask me to quiz him. Over the course of a month, Tyler* went from knowing only 10% of his sight words to over 75%. When Tyler* and I met to celebrate the immensity of his improvement, his reserved demeanor was replaced with a confident bravado. Tyler* had accomplished his goal. His excitement could be matched only by mine. 

*Name and details changed to protect student privacy.

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