Pepper Givens, Brownsville Independent School District

Pepper Givens is a freelance writer and passionate blogger who primarily contributes to onlinecolleges.net. Education inspires her, and she hopes to one day change the lives of students as a full-time teacher.

Last year, I worked in a Tier 2 literacy program at an elementary school; my job was to pull students individually each day from class for 30 minutes each and provide them with one-to-one literacy instruction. Overall, working as a literacy tutor was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done. My experience in education has inspired me to go back to school and get my masters in education. I hope to become a teacher after I graduate.

What surprised me most about working in education was the big difference my students made in my life. In particular, one first grader named Roy truly changed my life and made me realize that I needed to continue my career in public schools.

When I started working with Roy, his self-esteem was low. He’d been retained in first grade for a second time due to academic difficulties the previous year. When he started working with me, he lacked basic decoding skills and struggled to remember basic sight words. When I asked him to read, he would often put his head on the desk and refuse.

It wasn’t soon after I met Roy that I discovered he liked to draw, and I discovered that I could use drawing as a good incentive to get him to take a stab at the guided reading books I picked out for him. Each day that he successfully read two guided reading books, I let him draw for five minutes at the end of each lesson. This strategy seemed to work, for a while.

By the middle of the year, Roy was a few reading levels behind where he should be, but he was making progress. Unfortunately, it was around this time that he started to become more reluctant about reading again. He was having trouble staying awake in class, and he was getting in trouble more often. I think something was going on at home that caused this shift.

During this rough patch, Roy would sit down at the kidney-shaped table with me and exclaim “I hate reading!” One day he even told me he hated me. I assured him that by the end of the year, he would learn to love to read. He didn’t believe me, and every day that he gave me a hard time about reading, I didn’t quite believe myself either.

Still, I was persistent with Roy. Eventually, he started reading with me again and talking openly to me while he drew at the end of each lesson. By the end of the school year, he was reading on grade level. I truly believe that I was a stable and positive force in Roy’s life, and he helped me realize that you truly can make a difference as an educator.

During my last lesson with Roy, I asked him, “So, do you like reading?” And he nodded and smiled.

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