After years of teaching, I am stepping away from the role of a formal classroom teacher and into the role of educator and tutor at The Well at Ponte Vedra Beach. As I make this transition, I want to share with you what led me to teaching in the first place. As a teacher, I am always filing away the lessons I don’t want to forget.
I first discovered my love for education when I reluctantly took a job as a high school tutor. What I found led me down an exciting path. When I first met the bashful 7th grade girl I would be paired with for 9 months of English tutoring, I honestly felt that getting her to score passing marks would be an Everest I couldn’t climb. Our first month of meetings consisted of her refusing to speak to me and averting her eyes every time I tried to engage her. How could I be sure she was soaking in the material? I remembered my own English teacher telling me to build relationships first, and the content and knowledge would follow. I decided to make that my mantra. We set goals, we made stepwise changes, we learned her style and how to overcome her barriers. Over time, we grew to know and trust each other. Eventually, she began making C’s, and then those C’s became B’s. I will never forget her face when she ran into our tutoring room, waving her latest test proudly in front of her. She had scored an 85 and a smiley face sticker. She finally understood the information we had been reviewing and retained it! It belonged to her now! She was thinking differently and could apply the material in different situations. It was at then that I experienced what many veteran teachers refer to as the “light bulb moment.”
In the case of my first tutoring experience, the student’s achievement was a reflection of the profound difference it makes when we build personal relationships and individualize a lesson plan. Teaching a child how to learn, identifying their skills, translating the material into a language he or she understands best, and setting high but manageable goals is how I approach each student I tutor. For example, my 7th grader hated reading out loud, but loved drawing on the whiteboard. So, once I learned this, she was willing to diagram sentences and illustrate different parts of speech all afternoon. She liked writing on the board so much more than in her workbook. At the Well at Ponte Vedra Beach we have the opportunity to learn our student’s learning styles and meet them where they are at.
This initial experience, paired with the immense love and respect I felt for my own teachers, helped me fall in love with the profession and commit my future to becoming the best teacher I could be. As an educator, I incorporate the same preparation and devotion whether I am teaching in a formal classroom or as a tutor working with students in a small group or individually.
I have learned that great teaching has everything to do with how we approach students. In a successful classroom, ideas and opinions are valued. When kids are able to express their feelings, they learn to respect and listen to others. This fosters a collaborative environment where everyone feels they serve a vital role and offer something important to the class.
In a typical American classroom it can be challenging to meet the needs of students equally. When a student has a different learning style or needs an alternate approach, the lesson is bound to curriculum and the majority learning style. Students who need outside help often reluctant to ask for it and when they do, may sacrifice leisure time and peer experiences. Successful teachers know that students benefit not only from relying on him/her for information, but on each other, and the vast resources of the school and the community.
As the Director of Education for The Well at The Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach, I am eager to work with students in both small group and individual settings. This allows for flexibility for a family to schedule academic support tailored to fit their student’s need. We believe that children benefit from having clear instruction, expectations with high but manageable goals, and the support of a caring adult. We provide this in addition to the knowledge and support they need to succeed academically. Just as classrooms thrive on warmth and enthusiasm, the educational services at The Well seek to create a space free from feelings of helplessness, instilling students with confidence and capability they need to take on whatever their school day may hold. I value the the opportunity to work closely with students in need of individualized attention, partner with parents, and come alongside the teachers in our community. At The Well at Ponte Vedra Beach we believe every student is capable of making great strides and achieving academic success.