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April 14, 2016

An honest account of the first two weeks as a reading partner

Back to National Volunteer Week blog

By: Rocky Goodwin, volunteer reading partner in Denver, CO

When I first started volunteering, I have to admit, I was apprehensive. Mostly because I was already under a lot of work stress, and hadn’t stepped foot on a school campus for about 15 years. I thought to myself, as if I didn’t have enough stress in my work life — supervising four guys at work AND doing my own project — I had to think I needed to volunteer, give back to the community, share my blessing, help others, etc. Little did I know how it would have such a positive effect on my own life.

The first day was the hardest. I knew I was in trouble the minute I walked into the school and didn’t know where to sign in. I was lost, but everybody was patient and helped me find my way. I was also nervous to meet my student. You see, I’ve never had any kids of my own and have only had limited interactions with childrearing.

Once I finally found my student, we walked back up to the classroom. Let’s just say I walked and Cairo bounced all over the place back to the classroom. We finally made it to our desk, and I started reading to him. Then the trash truck drove up outside the 2nd floor classroom…. Brrrrrrrruuuuupppp, nnnnnnrrrrrrrrrr, brrrrrrrruuuuupppp, nnnnnnnnnrrrrrrrrrr. Over and over, the truck kept dumping trash. Cairo seemed more interested in wanting to watch the truck than the reading. But I kept reading and making him sit. Brrrruuuuuppp, nnnnnnnnrrrrrrrr, the truck dumped trash for 20 long agonizing hair pulling chaotic minutes. But somehow, we managed to get through that first lesson and then took him back to class.

Phew, that was the most grueling 6 hours of my life, I thought. Well, ok, maybe it was only 45. I was sweating bullets and thinking OMG there’s no way I’m going to be able to keep this up. Good thing I’m not salary – they’re going to fire me for sure.

Cairo2Then, I came back two days later, nervous, worried, perspiring, and a little shaky. I went and fetched Cairo, and we bounced back to the room. By this time he had me totally wrapped around his little finger. Thankfully, there was a supervising teacher in the room, Miss Jessica, to help guide me and steer me on the right path. Cairo and I finished a second session, and I thought I was done…I knew I was going to be asked not to come back. I thought it was that bad. But, that never happened. Miss Jessica continued to patiently help guide me as I became familiar with the curriculum, and more confident with Cairo.

The second week showed a little improvement — Cairo settled down a bit, and I quit perspiring. Poor Cairo was so far behind in reading, he could barely write his name when we first started. But little-by-little, week-by-week, we formed a tight bond. I set high expectations of him, and he exceeds those. One week I started talking to him about penmanship. I told him the teacher would give him better grades if he wrote better. A month later his teacher said all of a sudden he started writing better and that it was much easier to read. She was amazed. I smiled inwardly.

Last week, he wanted to skip to the reader. But we went through the lesson first. Then when he started on the reader he zoomed right through it. I started laughing because he was reading so fast. In six months, he’s advanced at a lightning pace and is almost caught up to the kids in his class. I’m so happy for him.

Miss J wants me to continue tutoring him when he goes to second grade. I’ll have to stock up on sweat bands….haha.

Celebrate National Volunteer Week with Reading Partners! Share your story of volunteering on our website or use #ProudReadingPartner on social media.

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