Friday, September 6, 2013

School Days

When I retired five years ago, friends warned me that I'd be bored, that I wouldn't find enough activities to fill my days. I figured that I could return to work part time if that happened, so I went ahead and retired despite their dire warnings.

As it turns out, there was no need to go back to work. Between blogging, dog walking, swimming,  napping, and tutoring, my days are happily filled. School has begun again, so I am back to tutoring after a lazy summer of goofing off. Over the summer, I had actually forgotten how fulfilling, delightful, and just plain fun it can be.

I tutor second graders in reading. I don't give a lot of time - just half an hour once a week to four different children - but it makes a difference in their lives and it makes a huge difference in mine. I look forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays, my tutoring days. My school is a charter school with a great vibe, very upbeat and happy, despite limited resources.

My motivation for doing this work is that I was a slow reader - reading didn't really connect with me until fourth grade. I was able to read before then, but it wasn't fun, it was hard work. Then, with a single book, "Skippy's Family," it lit a fire in me that has never burned out. Ever since, I have always had a book that I am reading. So, I have sympathy for kids whose reading is behind the rest of the class, the ones like me.

Not having children of my own, I was initially uncertain about whether or not I could relate to little kids. I needn't have worried - they are a delight at this age. They are bright and articulate, full of fun and full of energy, but also still very naive and sweet. Very little sass in second grade.

Yesterday, as I was chatting with one of the new teachers on the playground before tutoring, a teacher I had worked with last year came up and greeted us, telling the new teacher that I was a great tutor and that I had worked miracles with her lowest students last year. Now, I can assure you, I'm not a great tutor, but the children respond to any attention from a grownup, and they flower under that benign interest. 

They read with me but they also tell me about their lives and their hopes. At my school, their lives are very different from the privileged world I grew up in, and that helps me, too, to be more understanding and compassionate. When I hear about a seven year old whose mother has been deported, or who lives where they are doing donuts in the street outside her house, I realize just how lucky I was to be raised by both parents in a safe neighborhood. I am learning and growing, too, right along with my students.

If you have some extra time to spare, you might inquire about tutoring at your local school.  It won't take much time (you can set your own hours), but it will add so much to your enjoyment of life. And you get summers off.


Anonymous Janie said...

Kudos. Important work and a perk that you enjoy it so much!

Friday, September 06, 2013  
Blogger Namastenancy said...

What a lovely post - kids can be so much fun (esp if you don't have to deal with them 24/7..ahem). I teach handwriting (aka calligraphy) at a day care center close to me and try to throw in as much art as I can. I have several "masterpieces" on my fridge at all times and just wish I could do it more often but have to work my hour or two a week into the "free" times at the center. They are ages 3-5 so we do a lot of colorful brush painting and sometimes don't even bother with the brush.

Friday, September 06, 2013  
Blogger Hungry Dog said...

One of my favorite posts of yours, Zoomie! GOod for you for volunteering and for such a good cause. As someone who works with a lot of non-profits, both as a professional fundraiser and a volunteer, I can tell you that volunteers are an immense resource. Our community as a whole cannot function with them. The trick is finding something you enjoy; then it does not feel like an obligation.

Friday, September 06, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Janie, you know the satisfactions, first hand.

Nancy, I love that you are giving them art when the public schools don't offer that. And calligraphy! I'm so glad to hear that, now that they are no longer teaching cursive.

Hungry Dog, thank you! You're right - this isn't an obligation, it's a hoot!

Friday, September 06, 2013  
Blogger Namastenancy said...

I can't claim much credit as the school doesn't give me enough time with the 5 year olds. But I have these wonderful series of books designed by British calligrapher Irene Wellington to guide me. The little ones love finger painting and I try to incorporate making ovals and then, letter forms from that. It's messy fun; luckily the child care center has a washing machine on the premises.

Saturday, September 07, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Nancy, any intro to art is better than none. You are doing them a huge service.

Saturday, September 07, 2013  
Blogger Diane said...

Lovely post....I remember your tutoring photos from last year. Delighted to hear you are back doing something you love. And I'm sure you are a gift to those lucky kids that you work with.

Saturday, September 07, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Diane, thanks, yes, it's a delight every week. Getting to know the children and watching their progress is inspirational.

Saturday, September 07, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The soon you determine that you need long island private tutoring, you should act soon and find an effective one who can teach your kid before he loses hope and feel too down towards himself.

Friday, September 20, 2013  

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