With persistence, AmeriCorps member helps uncooperative student improve his reading skills

by Jared Paben

With persistence, AmeriCorps member helps uncooperative student improve his reading skills

Through patience and persistence, AmeriCorps member Patrick C. helped bring an uncooperative student out of his shell to improve his reading skills.

In the end, what the student needed was to read a story about another kid who got in trouble but turned things around to become successful.

Patrick is an AmeriCorps member serving through the Partnerships for Student Achievement program at the Forest Grove School District.

His story of service:

The particular student that I will be talking about was assigned to me specifically for a reason: He seemed to have very little interest in school whatsoever, and my mentor and his teacher felt that he may respond well to a man of my age teaching him. His name is Alexis and he is in the fifth grade.

When I first got the group that Alexis is in I was very excited to begin working with them. The first day was rough. The teacher had given me a heads-up that two of the students (Alexis being one of them) often did not seem to care much about school and instead spent their class time doing pretty much anything they could other than participating. After the first day of the group I knew it was going to be a huge challenge. I spent a lot of what little time I had trying to keep everyone focused and hardly got anything done. The second day was no better, and neither was the third. I needed to find something different to do. On the fourth day I changed up the work which they were doing to try to improve their interest level. It worked! With everyone except Alexis that is.

I know from personal experience that school, especially reading, can be very difficult if you have little to no interest in what you are learning. I spent a lot of time in the next few weeks trying different material and spending more and more time trying to learn about him so that I could figure out a way to get him interested in reading. One day, I had the group read a story about Satchel Paige. I knew it may be a long shot because it was about baseball and I knew that he wasn’t very into baseball, but I figured it would be worth a try. The story did include some things that I had hoped would catch his attention and maybe help him enjoy it. I allowed the group to quietly work with partners as I went around and worked with each pair one at a time. As the group read the story they were supposed to be underlining any parts that surprised them. When I got to Alexis, his partner was working silently while Alexis was sitting there… with nothing underlined. I sat down next to him and asked him if he would read with me. He began to sarcastically mumble the words to me. As he was doing this he got to a part in which it talked about how Satchel Paige had gotten in trouble a lot as a kid for stealing and skipping school. When he read that part his eyes widened, he nodded his head, and underlined that part. I left him to continue his work after that and he continued to work hard for the remainder of the group and even continued to finish what he was doing as everyone else began packing up. After group finished that day I thanked him for working so hard and asked him what had surprised him about the book, he told me he didn’t think we would read about somebody who got in trouble for skipping school. He said he thought that it was cool that even though Satchel Paige had gotten into trouble as a kid he was able to turn things around and do well in school. He said what surprised him most though was that Satchel Paige had said that if he had not gone to reform school and been able to finish his schooling, he would have never had the chance to have a professional baseball career.

Alexis still has days where he takes a while to get into what he is doing, but he seems to be getting more and more interested every day. The other day I was working with the group on extracting information from text. Alexis had not been there the day before so I worked with him to help get him started. I showed him a few techniques and he caught on immediately. He was very good at extracting information from the text and even though everyone else had a head start on the activity, he easily caught up. As his interest and confidence have increased he has continued to improve his reading skills. I continue to work with him for a few hours out of every week and I am excited to see how much more he can improve throughout the rest of the year.

Posted on June 9, 2014 in AmeriCorps.