Anita Howell has been a tutor with Orange Literacy since 2009, and she has been working with the same student for seven years. They started working with the Wilson Program five years ago and recently completed it. Her student Betsy entered the program at a low-literacy level and has worked diligently to improve her reading skills.
I asked her a few questions about her experiences being a tutor for Orange Literacy.
What have you found least enjoyable/most enjoyable about tutoring?
“There is very little that I find truly unenjoyable. Even the monthly reports allow me a good retrospective on our work, her progress, things that are and aren’t helpful, etc.
“It’s most enjoyable when Betsy ‘gets’ something and makes a step ahead in understanding a concept. Betsy works so hard that I want to work at least as hard to help her. I also find it rewarding to develop and then execute a lesson plan. I enjoy the tangible nature of the process. I feel like I am more efficient with our time – if we stray from the plan there is a clear reason for it rather than I just got long winded or sidetracked.”
Is there one moment during your experience of tutoring that you want to share?
“If I had to pick just one, I think it would be when she came in after a break and told me how much she enjoyed reading the couple of the small New Reader’s Press books I had given her. It sounded as though she had read them several times over the break.”
What is/are your favorite materials or book series you have used?
“Looking back, there have been several favorites: the instructor’s manual and the homework series accompanying Wilson, New Readers Press books and additional materials such as crosswords, and of course the Challenger series.”
Any advice you want to share with other tutors, especially those just beginning?
“For those folks who’ve done relatively little teaching or tutoring, my advice is to give yourself permission to both make a few missteps and to go slightly off script if it seems a good idea at the time. In other words, if something isn’t working, try something else. You can always go back.
“I know I spent ‘too long’ on the short vowels because I was expecting the level of consistency and perfection noted in the Wilson materials. In hindsight, after beginning to move a bit faster through the Wilson work, I learned that while Betsy may not get it right every time, once she owns a concept she can put it to work pretty consistently and correctly. And if she doesn’t quite get it (as has also happened), we can go back and review.
“Also, I had avoided certain things such as crosswords and word jumbles because I thought it would be confusing with her dyslexia. She loves them! And crosswords, at least, have really helped her with spelling. I count Meriwether Lewis as one of my ancestors and I think the attitude of exploration is a good approach to tutoring adults. Be prepared but be not afraid to go somewhere new.”
Thank you, Anita, for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us. If you have any questions about suggestions or materials mentioned, please email Diana at firstname.lastname@example.org.