Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Reading Groups

Shortly after opening the Tutoring Center, we realized many of our students greatly struggled in the area of reading, which was impeding all other areas of learning. When there are a lot of kids at the center, it's difficult to take the time to sit and teach the basic concepts of reading to a student who needs one-on-one attention. The most obvious solution to us, was to start reading groups based on students' level of abilities. This in turn, would allow us to provide more focused, customized attention to each student in order to help expedite their learning. We thought it was a great idea. Parents seemed excited. Wonderful!

No one came.

Almost a year later, after having a consistent group of struggling readers come every Tuesday and Thursday morning, we decided to try again. We made invitations, talked with moms, recruited extra help, and everyone was excited. We decided to keep it during normal tutoring time on Tuesday mornings since the students were already faithfully coming then.

First Tuesday, not a single student, not even for regular tutoring. But they all showed up the next afternoon, with no clear explanation for why they hadn't come the day before.

Second Tuesday, the majority of students showed up, though many were late. The kids seemed to really enjoy the reading activities and individualized attention.

Third Tuesday, two students came, but only because they had test to study for. The rest came in the afternoon or the next day. Again, with no reason or apparent concern regarding their absence.

It's hard not to be frustrated at this point. We have put a lot of effort into planning and preparing these lessons and activities in order to help our students develop the skills they need to succeed in school. Many of these kids are several grade levels behind. On the surface, parents and students seem very excited about what we are doing, but for some reason they don't take full advantage of it. I know there could be a million reasons culturally, economically, even spiritually, why the kids aren't coming; but it's hard to know how to proceed. Do we keep planning and waiting to see who shows up? Do we try to develop something different? Are students not coming because of something we are (or are not) doing? Is there something we are not seeing? These are all questions I have. This is where development work gets more complicated than just helping kids. I know I value reading, and I know the community values it as well. But the way those values are pursued and to what extent they are held, varies greatly. I don't want to just force my community to learn to read my way. I want them to be able to discover a love for reading that reflects their own pursuits and values. Knowing how to provide the opportunity to do that is challenging. Learning how to see past my own biasis and way of thinking is difficult. But in doing so, I know that I can learn from community as well. They have many valuable things to teach me. It may not be the specific skills of reading, but it could be just as vital. God has made each one of us with something of value to share, regardless of where we live, how much money or education we have, what language we speak, or what we look like. I pray that through this humbling (and at times frustrating) experience I can be open to receive, as well as, to give to my community.

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