The Sound of Applause

Guest post from Jamie Segerson, K-3 tutor at Polk Elementary School in Alexandria, VA. 

“I don’t know”. Those three little words are often the start of the long and arduous journey that tutors and their students take in pursuit of their reading goals. When reflecting on my experience this past year, this brings one student in particular to my mind. A cute, timid kindergartner, Justin started receiving tutoring in September of 2015. At our first tutoring session, he was unable to name a single letter sound. When we began tutoring soon after, the only answer I could seem to get from him was “I don’t know,” no matter the question.

Justin was quiet, so progress began slowly. However, as he learned more, he started opening up to me, and our relationship grew stronger. He began to talk more about himself and his life, and his skills continued to grow. He was steadily improving with his letter sounds, and in February he was able to read 56 letter sounds in one minute and exit the program!

Although I was proud of his reading progress, I was even prouder of how much he had grown as a student and individual in those five short months. He was so excited when I told him he had exited the Literacy Lab program – but his reaction to that news paled in comparison to what came right after. I walked him back to his class, and when I opened the door, his whole class stood and applauded him! Justin was overwhelmed. Although Justin was a little bashful, it was evident how proud and happy he was in that moment. It was so heartwarming to see the culmination of all his hard work result in the encouragement and support he received from his peers.

Moments like this are why I love this work so much, and I feel so happy that I was able to be a part of Justin’s growth and success. Moments like this motivate and push me to work that much harder with my other students who have not yet reached their goals, because I want to be able to help every child reach that moment.

Learn how to get involved as a Literacy Lab tutor in Alexandria, VA, Richmond, VA, Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD and Kansas City, MO at