by Ebony Walden
I returned to my car after my first Abundant Life Ministries tutoring session utterly defeated. The frustration of feeling ineffective had overcome me and I remember thinking, “How will I do this for another nine months?”
Earlier that same afternoon, I had felt more than equipped to begin tutoring. I had gone through the tutor training and I had years of tutoring experience under my belt. I thought, “This is going to be a breeze.” However, on the very first day I was challenged by the wit and energy of my tutee. I had too easily forgotten what it is like to interact with highly vocal and energetic 2nd graders. Since I have been used to talking with adults, it was hard to even communicate in language that a 7-year-old would understand. I knew the answer to the math problems and how to sound out difficult words perfectly; I had been doing that for years. What I had forgotten was the challenge and technique involved in conveying these unfamiliar details to my tutee. After a couple of weeks, this became easier. I was able to come down to the level of a second grader in order to use my knowledge and wit to challenge her and further her skill levels.
[My tutee] has grown in her confidence and skill in a matter of weeks. These have been great rewards.
What’s helped me the most for my service at Abundant Life has been the structured order of the afternoon--and the notebooks that are used to record and track the progress of tutees. Though we only have an hour and a half, we are able to do homework, read, complete an enrichment activity, and work on the computers. This provides the kids with variety and prevents them from getting bored and restless. In addition, we are able to communicate with the staff about the progress of the kids by keeping a log of work and activities in their notebook. This is a good way to look back and see how the participants have grown over time, which may be less apparent in the day-to-day interactions.
Over the course of my seven months as an Abundant Life tutor, I have witnessed growth in myself, seen the skills of my tutees’ improve, and built great relationships with the participants. I have been able to work on my own skills and teaching techniques as I tutored two little girls who are very different. The first was so bright that she did not need to attend tutoring twice a week anymore, which was great. The latter, though she has more academic challenges, has grown in her confidence and skill in a matter of weeks. These have been great rewards. The best part about tutoring, though, is building relationships with the participants who are full of energy and spirit. When I look back on my time at Abundant Life, it has been hard. But the experience of having all the kids run up to my car upon arrival, full of joy and laughter--and the look on my tutee’s face when she has figured out a hard problem--is reward enough.