It was seventh grade and I was raking in mostly C's on my report card. The transition into middle school was proving to be a rough one. I stuffed my locker so full of papers and books that, at first, it would dump onto my head when I opened it. Later, it would get so stuffed that the built in lock would actually break forcing me to keep all my things in a file box kept in the corner of my English teacher's classroom. In almost every class, my assigned seat was next to one of five boys that prided themselves in keeping every girl around them distracted with their jokes and tomfoolery. On top of it all, I just didn't see the point. I viewed school as an obligation in which I had to scrape through by memorizing enough information to do homework and pass tests.
That first year of middle school really stunk...except for one class. Ms. Fredrick's English class sucked me in every day. Reading and language arts had long been one of my least favorite subjects. I was a slow reader, probably due to some difficulty learning to read in the early grades. I never really read for pleasure, and tried to skate by on reading as little as possible in class. But this class had me reading and writing with pleasure every day. Ms. Frederick didn't just teach English, she immersed everyone in her room in it. When studying poems, she would bring in songs with wonderful lyrics for us to listen to. She introduced us to great writers and made us feel like we knew them. She sang. She danced. She acted. She made us see for the first time, why literature and writing were important. We wanted it to be a part of our lives! I began to write poems and compositions at home, and even read a little bit for pleasure.
Later in my life I would begin to look back at this class as one of the first times that I enjoyed learning and actually saw why it was important. It wasn't just the teacher that made this happen, but the environment that she created for us in the classroom. We were never scared of putting ourselves out there and trying something new, because we knew she would love us all the same if we royally screwed it up.
As I progressed through school, I was fortunate to have one or two more teachers like Ms. Fredrick. I began to motivate myself to learn even when the classes weren't motivating, and slowly over time I began to really love to learn.
This love of learning led me to go into education. I wanted to spread that love to my students.
As I began to work in classrooms and with students in different grade levels and subjects, I began to see that though some students loved learning, most had the same ideas I had had in middle school. They often struggled to keep up in class, and many were falling though the cracks and not getting the instruction, motivation, or caring attention that they needed. It was just too hard for teachers with large classes to find the time in the school day to mentor each child to make sure they were loving their learning experience.
I began to work with students one-on-one through tutoring to help those students who weren't getting what they needed and who needed to grow their love of learning. I quickly began to see that these students needed more than instruction and help filling in their academic gaps. We could work all day long on fractions and get the student to master the content, but when the next chapter came up they would be in the same situation. I realized that my students needed mentoring and lessons in motivation, goal setting, and growth mindset alongside the academic work that we were doing. When they started to gain some of these skills, and became motivated to learn and grow, they were able to begin to get more of what they needed in the classroom and through their own self study. Even 7 year olds were able to gain more confidence and begin to soar in their academics when they had a few of these tools in their belt.
I love learning, and that is why I tutor. I want to help all of my students see the magic and joy in learning and fall in love with it themselves. The challenge of learning something new and having to weed through mistakes and setbacks until you master a new concept can be motivating and fun to a student who is able to view it from the right lense. Sometimes forming this lense means having a teacher who will stick by you and encourage you when you fail, mess up or veer off track. I aim to help all my students find their love for learning and their ability to persist and make their academic goals a reality. To me, that is one of the most useful skills anyone can have. Those who love learning and can persist even when experiencing mistakes and failure are the happiest and most successful in life. I want that for my students.
Our education system can at times crush a student's love of learning with a wave of tests, measures and fast moving curriculum. I want to be the guide back to that love.