This week, rather than a lot of links, I thought I would simply share some thoughts – address the elephant in the room so to speak.
We know that as reading mentors, we impact students when we meet in person, converse with them, read and write with them and of course, highlight vocabulary. During these strange COVID times, our literacy approach will work online with a bit of creativity and flexibility. The most important component we bring as reading mentors to distance learning is the personal touch. Reading mentors encourage a student’s interest in reading since we model reading for pleasure. It does not matter what a student’s ability, reading aloud to the student and talking together benefits the student both academically and socially. Despite the distance and the technology issues, we can still help a student achieve positive literacy outcomes.
Naturally, we want to mentor in person. We greet our student as they exit the classroom and walk with them to our designated space. We want a solid hour where we can focus on the student and hopefully find that the session plan we worked on so diligently is a major success. Well, with distance learning we clearly will not have the opportunity to walk with our student. We will however, greet our student by looking into a computer screen, perhaps after clearing internet and connectivity issues. We will still have the opportunity to speak with our student, hear what is happening in their life, and even see a bit of their surroundings at home. Many of our volunteers have met family members, pets and learned what was for breakfast. I mentioned the personal touch that we bring to our sessions and I believe that personal touch is very important now as an elementary student’s life has effectively “shrunk” this year with stay at home mandates.
I won’t sugar coat the problems. We all have different technology (computers, laptop, Mac, etc.) and certainly different skill sets with technology. Training can either go quickly or sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. We now have volunteers mentoring online who shared that they would never consider even training for the experience. I admit we have had a few who felt their technical skills prevented them from moving forward. We want to hold up a book and share the pictures, or we find that when sharing a book online we can’t always see the student on the screen. But let’s be realistic in that sometimes the best things in life require a bit of determination and patience. We at Oasis are continually looking for ways to make this transition easier and so far, it is working for a third of our team!
I think there are few things to consider if you are on the fence about online mentoring. First, consider the importance of making a connection to support a student. Second, the sheer joy of volunteering – stepping outside of ourselves and our problems. Finally, reading children’s books!
I leave you with the simple and profound words from Jonnae, an APS second grade student. Jonnae felt the best part of tutoring was spending time with someone new.
“I’ve been isolated here and I just needed that, I just needed someone to talk to.”
Until next time – be well, stay safe and happy reading!
Relaxation and Fun
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