From the Heart: Kaitlyn Axelrod
May 9, 2016
When I first met James in October, he was a quiet, slightly nervous 7 year old. Although he wasn’t struggling academically, his confidence and motivation needed some work. We started by tackling his French homework together: primarily learning new dictée words and reading books. It wasn’t long before I discovered James’ true goofy, bouncy, and inquisitive self. I quickly realized that our time together couldn’t only be spent sitting at a table doing homework – it was going to have to be a lot more fun and exciting than that. We took breaks to visit Shelley, the library’s pet turtle, which would always spark discussions about our favourite animals, movie characters, and more. We made it a routine to play hangman at the end of every session, where we incorporated words and phrases that we had learned and talked about that day. To make reading more enjoyable, we put on funny voices and acted out what the characters were saying, which almost always ended with James laughing hysterically at his own silliness. When we started working together, I thought the main outcomes of this experience would be an improvement in James’ French skills. However, it ended up being so much more than that.
By April, James had improved substantially in his reading and writing skills. However, even more importantly, his confidence in his ability to do his homework grew. Eventually, when James would spell a dictée word right or pronounce a sentence correctly, he would throw his hands in the air and do a happy dance, claiming that it was all so easy and that he was awesome at French. This sense of accomplishment motivated him to push through his homework and get it done – with hardly any complaining!
Working with James for seven months had an equal, if not larger, impact on me. As most of my experience with kids comes from my time spent as a counselor at an all-girls summer camp, this increased my comfort working with boys and provided me with the opportunity to gain experience working with kids in an academic setting. Working with James also gave me an appreciation for different learning styles and allowed me to become more creative, innovative, and patient. Watching James learn and grow – in French, maturity, and height – has been such a rewarding experience. I know that he will only continue to thrive from here!
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