A Lesson in Perseverance


“I see that you’re getting stern with me.”

Say what? That bit of dry wit comes courtesy of my student, earlier today as we headed to the Fishbowl for a retest. I almost burst out laughing, but instead I just reassured my student that I was simply confident in his abilities and wanted him to do well. As I stifled my laugh I realized that I had gotten stern with him as we reviewed a few things, because I know that he knows. I know he does. I was so confident that he’d ace this step test. But testing can be unnerving, and he tends to rush and muddle the “i” and “e” sounds… so we work at it patiently. We persevere.

I’m not known to be a patient person, so sometimes persevering with my student is difficult. But I can never get angry or frustrated. Not only is that counterproductive, but he doesn’t deserve that reaction. His easy-going manner, wit, and delightful willingness to learn ease things along so much that I’ve become keenly invested in his success at FLOC. I see how and when he tries (hard) and, as I said, I know that he’s capable.

At the end of today’s program when I learned that he had to retest yet again, I immediately began thinking about how I could present the material in a fresh way. I began to mentally prepare myself to review the material carefully and patiently. I know that it’s important to persevere until he understands the short vowel sounds and automatically sounds an “e” instead of an “a” or “i” when I ask him to tap out and spell “cheb,” a pesky but useful nonsense word.

When I began at FLOC I didn’t anticipate a lesson in perseverance. Obviously I knew that the students at FLOC needed help mastering some skills, but I had no expectation of the degree of difficulty to help them accomplish that mastery. Maybe that was that way to begin this experience that I’ve come to enjoy and learn much from an open mind. I just wanted to fill some of my time with something helpful and meaningful. Not to be too sentimental about it, but the exercises in patience and perseverance are welcome, and a reminder that tutoring is as much a gift of your time as it is a gift to yourself.

(Renée-Lauren Ellis is a tutor in the Saturday Afternoon Reading program).

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