Tutor Reflections

Leora Rockowitz, Member 2007–2008

When I graduated college and signed up for ACE, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew I believed in the ACE mission, "to ensure that all children develop a strong foundation in early literacy skills during their first years in school." However, I imagined working with students who needed help learning how to read would be a cinch. Looking back at this naive (although optimistic) attitude, I can't help but laugh . . . while I thought it was my students who had an incomplete education, it was I who had a lot to learn.

During the first weeks of training with ACE, I learned that teaching literacy is a science and that it would take a lot of work to master. Phonics, word study, writing, fluency, and reading aloud are all integral parts of language acquisition and must be taught simultaneously. One cannot learn to read without mastering all the aforementioned skills. Furthermore, I discovered secrets of the English language, including diagraphs, blends, and nasals. Words and concepts that had once sounded foreign to me were now part of my literacy lexicon. At the end of training, I was overwhelmed, but on my way to learning how to become a reading specialist.

"While I thought it was my students who had an incomplete education, it was I who had a lot to learn."

After training, I prepared to meet my students. I anticipated working with children who were "at risk" (in danger of falling behind grade level). However, nothing could have prepared me for the first days of school when I soon learned my students weren't in danger of falling behind . . . they were behind. Furthermore, I had to combat a language barrier. My students were all English Language Learners. Most of my students had not been exposed to English until this year, and none of the kiddos spoke English at home. Translation—they had no one to help them do their homework.

Yet, even with the challenge of working with "at-risk" students who spoke English as a second language, I managed to make major strides with my focus children. As the year progressed, I implemented lessons and worked hard to ensure that the students understood (and remembered) what they were learning. In many instances it was gratifying to see immediate results. As the school year comes to a close, I am proud to report that my students are reading and writing at or close to grade level. Both my students and I have overcome many obstacles this year and we have all succeeded!