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Literacy Tutors Share Words of Wisdom

Deborah Taylor

Deborah Taylor is a High School/Middle School Program Manager at ExpandED Schools.

Last week, more than 80 new and returning MS ExTRA tutors gathered for a three-day literacy institute. Discussions were lively and focused on everything from assessing reading comprehension to kid-tested relationship building. Returning tutors shared which books got rave reviews amongst adolescents and explored social-emotional learning through literacy, while new tutors learned about positive feedback and live projects.

One of the highlights was when everyone came together to hear from a panel of three returning tutors who shared their passion and the wisdom gained from their experiences. Gloria Roldan tutors at the Waterside School, Michael Tyson is a tutor at Renaissance School of the Arts and Tyrone Hodges works with kids at Village Academy. I posed some questions. Here’s what they had to say:

The three-day literacy training is designed to help tutors develop a deeper understanding of MS ExTRA, prepare them for implementation of the guided reading model and inspire excitement for the upcoming school year.

Deb: What are your strategies for planning an effective lesson?

Gloria: It’s like planning a delicious meal – you make it with love. We are nourishing young minds. They are observant and notice how you act. Take the time you need – at home, during your planning time at school – so you can be organized.

Deb: What were your first impressions or concerns when you began working with students?

Tyrone: How do you develop rapport or trust? You can’t implement any strategies without a bond built on trust. I forge a partnership by telling them that we’re here to achieve something and we each have to fulfill our ends. Get to know the nuances of each child’s personality. Understand who they are. What method of communication will work best for each student? It’s like a GPS – when you’re driving, and you turn, it always says, “Recalculate.” That’s what we do; we recalculate. What worked yesterday may not work today.

: Describe a challenge and how you resolved it.

Michael: The value of a book isn’t always apparent. Sometimes it’s found in how it challenges you to think outside of the box. My 8th-grade group was set to read a book that was very abstract and they didn’t want to tackle it. The vocabulary was tough and they thought it would be awful. I used group discussion to let them vent. And then I took those abstract concepts and made them real and relevant. 

Deb: How do you create a culture of learning among a group of readers?

Gloria: I have them decide upon the conduct at the beginning of our time together. No name calling. No question is a stupid question. Give them space to speak about what they’d like. Getting to know the kids is vital, along with them getting to know you.

Tyrone: I talk to them about identity theft. I tell them, “If you can learn to be a great leader, no one can ever steal your identity.”

Deb: In only three words, describe your experience and the impact it has had on you.

Michael: [When students say] “Thank you, Mr. Tyson.”

Tyrone: Enlightening, moving, wonderful 

Gloria: Stretch, knowledge, forgiveness



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