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Creative Ways to Tutor a Frustrated Student, By Barjeana Jeffries

Have you ever had a student that seems edgy, leaves the room and distracts others without a clear reason?

Meet Student A. 

She's a fifth grade English as a Second Language student in an all English speaking school. She's reading at third grade level and she's frustrated. She knows she "should" be up to grade level, but she can't achieve her goal, she's embarrassed and expects more from herself because of her age. She's in a room with second and third grade students that read at the same level that she does and she's angry.

At first I thought she had "behavioral issues" and I thought about labeling her a "problem child." But as I got to know her and watched her behavior I realized that her behavior  was an expression of her frustration and nothing to do with said behavioral issues. Her age and her reading level caused her to feel "less than". She tried so hard, but just couldn't read at the level her peers could read.

One day, she did as she had been doing and left the room. This time she went to the bathroom and filled a balloon with water and brought it back in the classroom to use as a water bottle. She meant no harm, but I knew that drinking from a balloon could be dangerous to her. I corrected her and gave her a warning both for distracting the class and made her aware of the danger of drinking water from a balloon.

She did not bring a balloon into the classroom again, but still, something was missing. As I gave it some thought I realized her dilemma. She didn't want to be there. She thought she should be able to learn with students her own age. Finally, I had something to work with.

I'm a writer. I write children's books. My mother said that if she put a pencil in the bathroom, when I was a child, I would have written on the toilet paper. She's right. I wrote an entire 10 song music album (original songs) on napkins while working in a Mexican  restaurant with music playing overhead. 

I told you that, because my gift of connecting with Student A was in writing a story. I used her and the youngest student in the classrooms as the main characters. I called it "Student A (not really, I used her name) and the Green Bike.

I gave Student A the story and had her read the first portion, then the students passed the story around the room and everyone had the chance to read a portion. In the story I put Student A as the "hero". Student B, the youngest of the class, needed her help. In the story, Student B had a green bike and he wrecked it. Student A collected money from her friends, neighbors and parents and surprised Student B with the new green bike.

The story gave Student A the sense of maturity that she deserved and put her in a situation that gave her the opportunity to be the mature student that helped the youngest student. 

Student A relaxed and began to participate on a deeper level. I didn't have to ask her to "stop distracting " and she no longer tried to leave the room. She engaged. Isn't engagement the goal of a tutor?  We are the support system for the teachers. If we are successful, then both the student and the teacher win.

Don't be afraid to create!  There is, more than likely, something "magical" in you that wants to reach the students you tutor. I hope that my suggestions help you do what you can and what you do with more freedom.

I'm attaching the story for your reading pleasure.
"Juliana and the Green Bike"
 Juliana was a very popular girl. She was kind, polite and patient. She loved to ride her bicycle. She rode it everywhere, to school, to the park, and to get ice cream. She was very proud of her bicycle. She could ride faster than the other children. She was strong and brave. One day she met a little boy . His blue eyes and curly blond hair made her think of an angel she saw in a book . His name was Eamon. They were the best of friends. Eamon was a few years younger that Juliana, but that did not bother her. She treated him like a brother. Her bike was pink and his bike was green with white handles. One day Eamon crashed his bike. He was not hurt, but his bike could not be fixed. Eamon cried and Juliana wanted to help. Juliana came up with a plan. She secretly went to the bike shop and found a bike like Eamon’s. She asked the man how much it cost. Then she told him about Eamon and his bike. The man at the shop told her that he would put that bike in the back so that no one would buy it before she could, but only for one week. She left the bike shop sad. She didn’t have any money to buy the bike. She told her friends about the bike and each of them went to their parents and neighbors. One week later she went back to the store and bought the bike. She asked Eamon to ride with her . “How “, he asked? I don’t have my bike anymore. Juliana told Eamon to ride with her on her bicycle . He got on the back of her bike and she rode very carefully. When they got to the bike shop she asked Eamon to wait outside. She went in and asked the man if she could have the bike she bought. She didn’t tell Eamon anything. The man gave Juliana the bike. She told Eamon to close his eyes before she came outside. When Eamon opened his eyes he had a brand new green bike. It was so shiny. Eamon gave Juliana a big hug and they peddled together all the way home.
Story by: Barjeana J

Barjeana J
Excel in Raising Education to Grade Level
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