By Olivia Miller
When I was put into a Zoom breakout room with my reader on my first day as a coach, I didn’t know quite what to expect. I’d been wanting to work as a tutor but had never had a formal job or even babysat before. I had heard about Team Read from a teacher, and it was exactly what I was hoping for: a job helping kids who really needed it. But being a coach pushed me in a new way. I was the one in charge now — a leader responsible for guiding my reader through the tasks of the day and keeping him focused. It felt like a big responsibility, and I was worried that I was going to make a mistake. What if I can’t keep my reader engaged? What if I say the wrong thing?
After tutoring online for two semesters, I discovered a new side to coaching after starting in person this school year. Twice a week, I met with my reader at his school, which allowed me to connect with him on a deeper level and get to know his strengths, challenges, interests, and personality. No matter what kind of a day I was having, Team Read almost always put me in a good mood. My sister (who is also a coach) and I debriefed our time with our readers on our way home, recounting funny conversations and sweet moments. We watched our readers open up to us as the semester progressed, and our bonds with them became stronger.
Team Read has given me a glimpse into the influence educators can have on the lives of their students. It’s made me contemplate teaching as a career, something I hadn’t seriously considered before. But the biggest way Team Read has impacted me is by giving me the chance to feel like I’m making a difference in someone’s life and to realize how important that feeling is to me. The fact that Team Read is located at school, free of charge, and directed at readers who need extra support means that it is designed for a cohort of kids that need help and might not otherwise have access to it. Team Read has made me realize my ability to have a positive impact on others, which I know will stay with me no matter where my life takes me.
As I’ve encouraged my reader to challenge himself, I’ve seen his confidence grow. Through trying a new phonological word game or challenging book, he’s discovered that doing something outside of his comfort zone can lead not only to new skills and reading progress, but also to the discovery of something he enjoys. In fact, Sound Swap, which he at first refused to try, has now become his game of choice during phonological awareness time! His reading level has improved too — after starting out the year behind, he’s now reading at a third grade level.
And despite my initial inhibitions, my confidence as a coach has grown alongside my reader’s. I’ve become more comfortable redirecting my reader in a firm yet kind way. I’ve learned how to balance having fun and being a friend to him with challenging him as a coach. I’ve also realized that pushing my reader does not mean I’m being mean or unfair, but actually setting him up for growth and future success. The same has proved true for me. By pushing myself to be a Team Read coach — although it was outside of my comfort zone — I have discovered a new passion in tutoring, learned how to be a leader, and grown more than I ever imagined.
Olivia Miller, class of 2023, spent her junior and senior years as a Team Read coach, and recently joined our team as a spring intern. In the fall of 2023 she’ll begin studies at Bowdoin College in Maine. Along with Team Read, she has been active in her school’s medical club, wilderness club, and writing center. Outside of school and work she enjoys knitting and crocheting, and plays both guitar and piano. We’re grateful to Olivia for all her hard work with Team Read and wish her the very best in the future.