“High-Energy” Student Thrives with Individual Attention

By Chelsea Boniak | December 21, 2019

Luis, a high energy second grader in Succeeding by Reading

Jean helped Luis focus his high energy and learn to read.

Despite initial challenges, Luis learned to read

Luis* and his tutor Jean are an unlikely pair. Last school year, Luis was a high-energy second grader. Although very smart, he could hardly sit still and had trouble focusing long enough to learn. Jean moves through life at a slower, more relaxed pace and started the school year unsure of how to relate to Luis. In fact, Jean considered asking to swap students with another tutor so both she and Luis could be paired with someone with whom each could have more success. But Jean decided to commit to Luis and remain consistent for him, with extra support from Succeeding by Reading Program Manager Bekah Wilson.

At the beginning of the school year, Luis was reading below a kindergarten grade level. His teacher, Ms. Dana, describes him as sweet and motivated to improve. He was always happy to attend tutoring and enjoyed the one-on-one attention and support he received from Jean each week. “There was no real ‘lightbulb moment,’” recalls Jean, “just slow and steady progress.” That steady progress led to amazing results: Luis had nearly caught up to grade level by the end of the school year!

“… the opportunity to receive extra help and see himself making progress each week was encouraging and validating for Luis, and made him feel better both in and out of the clinic.”

Luis and Jean in group photo at La Escualita Elementary School.

Luis and Jean (center in red and white shirts) were an unlikely pair, but they both received the extra support they needed to make significant progress together.

Luis’ blossoming relationship with Jean produced positive results outside of the reading clinic as well. Ms. Dana remembers Luis’ overall mood improving as his reading improved. She believes two important factors were at play in this shift. First, the personal attention made Luis feel valued and seen. “Who wouldn’t do better with some extra attention?” Ms. Dana asked. Luis’ story is a common one: the youngest sibling in a single-parent household, with his mother working long hours to provide for her family. We know that parents care deeply for their children, but when paying rent and putting food on the table is a struggle, individual academic attention can be very difficult to provide. Even in the best of circumstances, “every kid needs an adult relationship outside of family or a teacher,” Ms. Dana asserts. Jean’s role was bigger than simply that of a tutor: she was another caring adult who was choosing to spend an hour a week with Luis, and that in itself is a priceless gift.

Additionally, Ms. Dana points out, it’s obvious to kids-– especially at this age-– when they are struggling or need extra help. She likes to tell her students, “We are all gifted and talented in different ways, and we all need extra help in different things.” For a second grader who is struggling to read, it’s obvious to that child that they are not performing at the same level as their classmates. Having the opportunity to receive extra help and see himself making progress each week was encouraging and validating for Luis, and made him feel better both in and out of the clinic.

Ms. Dana is right– we do all need extra help in different ways. Luis needed some extra support to learn to read. His tutor, Jean, needed some extra support to learn how to relate to Luis and help him be successful. Bekah, Succeeding by Reading Program Manager, helped Jean with strategies to keep Luis focused. This team of caring adults, in tandem with his teacher and family, worked together to help Luis improve his reading skills by multiple grade levels in one school year, and set him up to be able to continue to succeed.

* Name changed to maintain confidentiality

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