In this two-part series, we talk with literacy coaches Jeri Harris and Wanda Lofton about their experience working with Team Read and what has inspired them to continue this important work for so many years.
What’s different about working with teen tutors versus adults?
Jeri: The teens are open to trying new things. They love getting positive feedback and are willing to try the things that you suggest. They are sometimes surprised at the gifts that they bring and how much influence they have on the students. The one-on-one attention that students receive is so important and teachers often don’t have that much time to spend with one student. The relationship that the teens have with the students sets the students up for a successful classroom experience.
Wanda: The teen tutors bring a natural relatability to students that adults often have to work at to achieve. The teens are closer in age to the students and can relate to their struggles (and achievements) in reading. A lot of the students have an older brother or sister and this helps in the relationship building.
How do you think the relationship between teens and elementary students plays a role in the success of the program?
Jeri: The teens are committed to helping the students. The tutors provide positive feedback, one-on-one attention, and a fresh start if the student has had a difficult day. The students are motivated and the teens share stories of when they have struggled to help the student know that things will get better. All of this helps Team Read succeed.
Wanda: Both tutors and students want to be successful and this provides incentive to do their best. The one-on-one attention that tutors provide for students gives them the extra support they need to succeed in reading.
What advice would you give to a new reading coach?
Jeri: Being a reading coach is such important work. You make a difference every time you interact with your student. Some of the students will become reading coaches because of you. All of them will become better readers and hopefully learn to love reading because of your influence. You can, you must, you will make a difference for all of our students.
Wanda: My advice to new reading coaches is to be open and willing to work with a student and be confident that he or she can make a difference with the student. Ask for advice or support when unsure what to do or how to do it. Stay focused and expect the best from the tutee.