Shy and Reserved Child Learns Vital Math Skills
By Eric Steckel | July 14, 2020
For many students, a trip up to the blackboard is a fate worse than death. For shy and reserved Jocelyn*, speaking English as a second language compounded matters. Even when she felt she knew the answer, she did not know how to articulate her thoughts or explain how she came to an answer.
“She was just really behind in both math and reading,” explained her teacher, Ms. Danielle Kerr. “And she was so quiet – no behavior problems – and sometimes students like that just get overlooked in a crowded classroom.”
Jocelyn was referred to Children Rising’s Path2Math interventional tutoring program and paired with Lynn Nelson, a first-year tutor who felt anxiety herself about her role.
“She was just really behind in both math and reading, and she was so quiet…sometimes students like that just get overlooked in a crowded classroom.” — Danielle Kerr
“The first time I walked in and I met her, I thought, ‘What am I doing here? Am I capable of doing this? Will she like me?’ ” Lynn confessed. “But Jocelyn seemed very comfortable from the beginning, apart from the shyness. I think she’s used to having teachers and having people help her.”
Despite their mutual anxiety, the two bonded immediately. Lynn empathized with the shy little girl who didn’t want to go to the blackboard. Rather than making Jocelyn go to the blackboard, Lynn would have her do the problem on a dry erase board at her seat. “I’d nod and smile when she had come up with the right solution,” she explained.
Although Jocelyn was still counting on her fingers, Lynn observed something that helped make math fun. “I saw that she loved to draw. I was able to integrate math with her drawing. Instead of doing numbers, I’d have her ‘Draw me four hearts’ or that sort of thing. I think she could relate to those drawings more than just the number four, and she enjoyed drawing.”
“That was really fun to see her blossom to the point where she was very excited about raising her hand and wanting to go up to the board and be outwardly involved with her math.” — Lynn Nelson
Lynn’s unique approach worked, and Jocelyn enjoyed their sessions together. “I think she could feel that I was very happy to be there and to be helping her. I think she just enjoyed doing it after a while.”
Over time, Jocelyn began to raise her hand when she thought she had the right answer, and even dared to go to the blackboard. “She began to get a little more confident in what she knew and that she was doing it right. That was really fun to see her blossom to the point where she was very excited about raising her hand and wanting to go up to the board and be outwardly involved with her math.”
In the classroom, Jocelyn became more active as well. Now she “has more confidence, talks all the time, and has friends.” Ms. Kerr said.
Jocelyn has recently completed third grade. When we caught up with her, (pre-COVID-19) Path2Math program manager Michelle Hutcherson observed Jocelyn’s math skills. “Lynn helped Jocelyn break out of her shyness and quiet, and become confident, happy to be learning math. I believe Jocelyn could even teach another child!”
Ms. Kerr and Lynn both feel that the one-on-one relationship had a big part to play in Jocelyn’s progress. “I wish I could give it to all of my students,” Ms. Kerr said. “Our class sizes are so big and they just need more individual attention. It’s unfortunate that the teacher can’t spend as much one-on-one time with her.”
“It was a thrill for me,” Lynn said. “It made me want to come back and do more with another student and see if I could have an impact on somebody’s life to help them in the next step.”
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* Name changed to maintain confidentiality