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A Time For Change and a Time for Hope

By Jim Wambach
July 21, 2020

Perspectives Article by Jim Wambach, Executive Director

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama

At the end of March, someone asked how they could cancel their 90-day trial of 2020! Throughout these past months, we have been exposed to more poverty, more hunger, more death, more disadvantage, and more incidents of racial injustice. We have been forced to change our way of life and our view of reality.

So many children in our community, eager to learn and grow, were traumatically cut off from their friends, teachers, and tutors. Our local schools have struggled to provide quality distance learning, exposing the digital divide for how it’s been maintaining the achievement gap for some of our most vulnerable children and youth. The children we care so much about will be even further behind as we start the new school year.

Nevertheless, I am hopeful as we look toward the second half of this challenging year. There are many indications that the struggles during the first half of the year may result in opportunities for lasting, positive change.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” — Socrates

OUSD recently received $12.5 million of donations so every child within the district will receive computers and internet access. This opens them to the world of information so crucial to learning, and helps them become more adept at using technology. We may also be at a historical tipping point in our centuries-old struggle for social and racial justice, where our country finally takes long overdue steps to end systemic racism once and for all.

Our tutoring programs are being re-imagined to accommodate the ongoing social distancing guidelines. We are implementing a remote tutoring capability for this school year which will enhance the opportunity to include parents online. Our goal is to more intentionally engage families, such as Justeen’s, and accelerate learning for the children we serve.

Your support enables tutors to help children succeed in school.

Your support will enable a tutor to nurture and empower a child in school and at home through what promises to be a challenging, but hopeful, academic year.

Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Indeed, I see a community focused on building the new and I am hopeful. Please continue to join us as we build toward the future by providing your financial support, or investing your time as a volunteer.

 

YES, I CAN help a promising child eager to learn.

 I am interested in online tutoring this fall!

 I want help fund Children Rising online tutoring and mentoring programs to empower more children this year.

Shy and Reserved Child Learns Vital Math Skills

By Eric Steckel
July 14, 2020

For many students, a trip up to the blackboard is a fate worse than death. For shy and reserved Jocelyn*, speaking English as a second language compounded matters. Even when she felt she knew the answer, she did not know how to articulate her thoughts or explain how she came to an answer.

Jocelyn was shy and reserved but determined to learn math.

Jocelyn was quiet and reserved, and far behind her class in math. Your gift made it possible for Jocelyn to get back to grade level in math.

“She was just really behind in both math and reading,” explained her teacher, Ms. Danielle Kerr. “And she was so quiet – no behavior problems – and sometimes students like that just get overlooked in a crowded classroom.”

Jocelyn was referred to Children Rising’s Path2Math interventional tutoring program and paired with Lynn Nelson, a first-year tutor who felt anxiety herself about her role.

“She was just really behind in both math and reading, and she was so quiet…sometimes students like that just get overlooked in a crowded classroom.” — Danielle Kerr

“The first time I walked in and I met her, I thought, ‘What am I doing here? Am I capable of doing this? Will she like me?’ ” Lynn confessed. “But Jocelyn seemed very comfortable from the beginning, apart from the shyness. I think she’s used to having teachers and having people help her.”

Despite their mutual anxiety, the two bonded immediately. Lynn empathized with the shy little girl who didn’t want to go to the blackboard. Rather than making Jocelyn go to the blackboard, Lynn would have her do the problem on a dry erase board at her seat. “I’d nod and smile when she had come up with the right solution,” she explained.

Although Jocelyn was still counting on her fingers, Lynn observed something that helped make math fun. “I saw that she loved to draw. I was able to integrate math with her drawing. Instead of doing numbers, I’d have her ‘Draw me four hearts’ or that sort of thing. I think she could relate to those drawings more than just the number four, and she enjoyed drawing.”

“That was really fun to see her blossom to the point where she was very excited about raising her hand and wanting to go up to the board and be outwardly involved with her math.” — Lynn Nelson

Lynn’s unique approach worked, and Jocelyn enjoyed their sessions together. “I think she could feel that I was very happy to be there and to be helping her. I think she just enjoyed doing it after a while.”

Over time, Jocelyn began to raise her hand when she thought she had the right answer, and even dared to go to the blackboard. “She began to get a little more confident in what she knew and that she was doing it right. That was really fun to see her blossom to the point where she was very excited about raising her hand and wanting to go up to the board and be outwardly involved with her math.”

Now in third grade, Jennifer is confident in her math skills.

Now in third grade, Jocelyn is confident in her math skills.

In the classroom, Jocelyn became more active as well. Now she “has more confidence, talks all the time, and has friends.” Ms. Kerr said.

Jocelyn has recently completed third grade. When we caught up with her, (pre-COVID-19) Path2Math program manager Michelle Hutcherson observed Jocelyn’s math skills. “Lynn helped Jocelyn break out of her shyness and quiet, and become confident, happy to be learning math. I believe Jocelyn could even teach another child!”

Ms. Kerr and Lynn both feel that the one-on-one relationship had a big part to play in Jocelyn’s progress. “I wish I could give it to all of my students,” Ms. Kerr said. “Our class sizes are so big and they just need more individual attention. It’s unfortunate that the teacher can’t spend as much one-on-one time with her.”

“It was a thrill for me,” Lynn said. “It made me want to come back and do more with another student and see if I could have an impact on somebody’s life to help them in the next step.”

YES, I CAN help a promising child eager to learn.

 I am interested in online tutoring this fall!

 I want help fund Children Rising online tutoring and mentoring programs to empower more children this year.

 

* Name changed to maintain confidentiality

Determined Young Child Overcomes Challenges and Learns to Read

By Eric Steckel
July 7, 2020

When working with struggling students, timing is crucial. In Juliana’s* case, we experienced both good and bad timing, seasoned by a team of caring adults who would not quit on a young girl determined to learn to read.

Three years ago, when Juliana was in first grade, her teacher referred her to Gwen Stephens, Succeeding by Reading program coordinator at Burckhalter Elementary School. “She needed some help with rudimentary things, like sounds of letters. She was way behind for a first grader, so I was glad to take her,” Gwen remembers. “She was enthusiastic enough, but she was not getting it. And I was really concerned.”

Julianna gives a thumbs up to learning math.

Motivation and timing were key to Julianna’s progress this year. Your gift meant a caring adult was there when she was ready to learn to read.

Gwen reached out to Juliana’s teacher to find out what might be going on. She was disappointed to find out that Juliana had unexpectedly dropped out of school, and nobody knew what had become of her.

The following year, Juliana returned to Burckhalter, with a similar outcome. Due to erratic attendance, Juliana had to leave the program. “I was really sad about that.” Gwen said.

“This program works because of the dedication of the tutors, and the way it’s structured, it motivates the kids to challenge themselves to do better.” – Gwen Stephens, Succeeding by Reading program coordinator

This past year, it seemed as if the third time would be the charm. Juliana pleaded, “Miss Gwen, please, please, can I come to your class?” The school principal made a deal with them. “If you come every day for a month, we’ll consider you.” Seizing the opportunity, Juliana said, “I’m going to do that. I promise you, I’m going to do that.”

From that day forward, Juliana kept track of her attendance, and every time she saw Gwen, she reported her progress. Finally, she reached a month. “Miss Gwen, it’s been a whole month. I’m so happy! Now, can I come?” Gwen didn’t really have a place for her, but saw that the child was so enthusiastic and had “exerted her own will.” Gwen agreed to tutor her personally. Finally, timing was working for them.

Juliana poured herself into her work, but something still wasn’t quite right. Gwen consulted with Ann Rosenberg, one of the tutors in her clinic. “She’s not really seeing the letters right. She gets them mixed up,” she explained.

“Maybe she needs glasses?” Ann suggested. “Let me see what I can do.” As a retired social worker who had worked in Oakland Unified School District, Ann went to work. Although Juliana was not “her” student, she got Juliana’s mother’s phone number from the school office and helped arrange a visit to an eye clinic, and very soon Juliana had new glasses.

“It’s easy for me, I like making connections for people, it’s just part of my brain,” Ann said. “That was how I was introduced to her. She came and gave me a hug when she had the glasses.”

“When I tutor kids, we do a lot of reading, but I always ask children, ‘How is your week going? What’s been the best thing this week? What’s the worst thing that’s happened this week?’ So kids can get that stuff out.” — Ann Rosenberg, Succeeding by Reading tutor

With another stroke of good timing, Ann had an opening for a new student. Gwen asked her if she’d like to take on Juliana. Ann and Juliana had bonded over the glasses, but their one-on-one relationship grew deeper. “When I tutor kids, we do a lot of reading, but I always ask children, ‘How is your week going? What’s been the best thing this week? What’s the worst thing that’s happened this week?’ So kids can get that stuff out.” Ann explained. “I’m sort of a wrap-around kind of person. Nothing is just focused on the reading, it’s about the relationship.”

Ann Rosenberg and Gwen Stephens

It takes teamwork, timing, and patience to be there when a struggling student is ready to flourish. Thank you for making that possible for Julianna. (Pictured: Ann Rosenberg and Gwen Stephens)

In the course of just three months of working together, Juliana made fantastic progress with Ann. “She was very hard on herself. So, I just tried to reinforce everything positive that I could, and tell her it’s okay. You don’t have to be perfect, it’s about progress, not perfection.” To help motivate Juliana to read for enjoyment, they chose a graphic book that Juliana loved. “So we were reading the book together and she was doing so well. That was a real motivator because she really wanted to read that book.”

Bad timing struck again in the form of COVID-19. Juliana was on course to reach grade level by the end of the academic year when schools closed. Unfortunately, many students in the district have little access to technology and the internet, and less opportunity to learn at home. Without further intervention, Juliana will likely begin fourth grade behind her peers in reading, despite her hard work and progress.

“It’s so frustrating having the year cut short like this. But she was doing better and she was so happy,” Ann said.

“I’m hoping I can see her [next year] because we didn’t get to grade level. I would love to take her again. I really would like to get her all the way up to grade level.” Gwen insists. “She just needs that last little push.”

Postscript
While researching for our story, Ann reached out to Juliana to find out the name of the graphic book. As it turns out, Juliana has a tablet and internet access, and the two are looking forward to reading together over the summer.

Your $50 gift enables a tutor to nurture and empower a child in school and at home through the academic year. Thank you.

YES, I CAN help a promising child eager to learn to read.

 I am interested in online tutoring this fall!

 I want help fund Children Rising online tutoring and mentoring programs to empower more children this year.

 

* Name changed to maintain confidentiality