I remember the first day I met John as if it was yesterday. I was wrapping up my administrative tasks for the day and preparing the Learning Center for the student’s afternoon arrival. Greeting the students and helping them begin their custom learning program was my favorite part of the day.
As I stood at the entrance of the Learning Area, I could see a timid 8-year-old in the lobby with his Mom. He did not want to enter the Learning Area. I greeted the other students as they entered and walked over to introduce myself.
‘Hello, my name is Ms. Ashley. What’s your name?’
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The timid young boy didn’t make eye contact but uttered a quiet ‘Hi, I’m John’.
We talked a bit about his day for several minutes but he was still hesitant to leave the lobby and join the other students. Wracking my brain for a solution, food popped into mind. Snacking calmed my fears 100% of the time. I wondered if it was the same for John; he confirmed that a snack was the perfect solution.
There weren’t any snacks in the Learning Center, so I asked my Center Manager if I could run to the Walmart in the shopping center. Once my Center Manager signed off on my afternoon adventure, I headed over to Wally’s world.
‘Hmm, what’s the perfect ‘nutritious, nerve calming, confidence boosting’ snack for an 8-year-old boy?’, I thought.
‘Apples and chips. Not just any apples and chips but a green apple and Garden Salsa Sun Chips’, popped into mind.
I returned to the Learning Center ‘bearing gifts’. John’s scared face cracked a smile. We sat in the lobby while he ate his Sun Chips and green apple. He talked…I listened; it was the start of a new relationship. When John finished his snack, he was smiling and eager to enter the Learning Area for his first day tour.
The first time I worked with John, I listened to his stories and asked about his toy figurines. I redirected him frequently back to our lesson but gave space to building our relationship. John learned, laughed, and enjoyed our hour long session. At the end of our session, he remarked that ‘You’re funny. I like working with you’.
In the next couple of months, I saw him enter the Learning Center with a smile. One of the other teachers told me he drew a picture of himself saving all the teachers at the Learning Center from a fire. It made my heart happy that the sad boy that entered the Learning Center several weeks ago now saw the Learning Center as a place of safety.
Helping John with his Math was a delight but he taught me the 3 L’s of tutoring –
3 ‘L’s’ of Tutoring;
- Listen to their stories
- Learn as much about them as possible
- Laugh as much as you can.
Remember, a laughing and smiling student is always a good sign – plus it never hurts to have a green apple, Sun Chips, and compassion in your toolkit.