Making a Difference, One Child at a Time

Contributed by Catelin Springer, Binghampton Christian Academy Residential Tutoring Program Volunteer

Last year, as a provisional, I was fortunate to be able to participate in many different volunteer opportunities in preparation for a placement this year. When I began looking for a placement, I thought intensely about how I wanted to give back to the city of Memphis.  With children being the future of Memphis, I decided that my time was best spent serving children.

When I received news that I would be tutoring children at Binghampton Christian Academy, several thoughts ran through my mind. I was extremely excited, very nervous as most of my education involves medical terminology, and eager to hopefully make a difference in a child’s life.  I attended the introduction meeting at Binghampton to prepare for my tutoring sessions, and was introduced to the most passionate, caring instructional coach and principal, Candace and Tari.  They certainly take pride in their jobs and have the utmost respect and concern for the well-being of their students.

I learned a lot about Binghampton in that short meeting. I learned that there are 31 students that live on campus during the school week.  While on-campus living is determined on a case-by-case basis, some factors include: parents working night jobs, parents that speak little to no English and, therefore, would have difficulty helping with homework, studying, etc., or children needing a little more structure or routine.  I learned that there are women and men that graciously sacrifice their social lives during the week to be “dorm mothers and dorm fathers.”  I learned that there are teachers that are certified to teach 3rd grade but patiently teach at a 2nd grade level as most of these children are behind academically.  I learned that there are so many giving people in this city that have donated computers, art work, land to build more buildings for the school, and even everyday supplies to help the school function successfully.

I tutor a precious 3rd grade girl who lives on campus Monday-Thursday and returns home to her family during the weekend.  The same thoughts that ran through my head when I first received my placement ran through my head on my first day of tutoring.  My biggest goal was to make a difference in this child’s life, not only academically but also emotionally.  I was told that these children were not only behind academically, but some also experienced low self-esteem.  I wanted my little girl to know that she was smart and talented, but how I would do that, I did not know at the time.

My first tutoring session did not quite go as planned. It was really an introduction session– for me to get to know her and vice versa.  I felt it was really important to establish a trusting relationship right off the bat.  My little girl is extremely shy and very soft-spoken.  She struggles with communication, especially if she does not understand a concept. We talked a little bit and worked on the multiplication skills she was currently working on in school.  By the end of the session she was in tears, which is never a good thing!  I was heartbroken thinking that I had done something wrong.  I was not sure if she was just anxious about this new tutor or if she was just happy that someone was giving her one-on-one time, no other students around.  After discussing with her that tutoring was supposed to be fun and not sad, she eventually dried her tears and our session was finished.  The next session proved to be much more effective.  We started the session with a few fun games, nothing that related to school.  We also discussed the “star card” which is a motivation card.  Every tutoring session that she gives 100% effort, she gets to color in a star.  When all of the stars are colored in, she will receive a treat.

What I have learned about my little girl in the short time I have been tutoring her is that she needs extra motivation. Her eyes light up when she gets an “awesome job” for completing a multiplication problem correctly.  She thrives on positivity, and she is very sensitive when she knows she has not gotten a problem correct.  It takes a lot of positive reinforcement and careful explanation to show her the correct way to do the problem.   I cannot say where my girl will be academically at the end of the year.  However, I can say that it is evident that I have at least made a difference in her life which was my goal for this placement.

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