Julia’s Summer of Service Reflection

My name is Julia Rosenbaum. I’m in tenth grade and this past summer, I had the honor of tutoring for a program funded by the Jewish Community Center, located in a public school on 97th between Amsterdam and Columbus. The program was designed for children who needed extra help with their studies but did not have the money to do so.  I spent five weeks helping a child going into third grade with literacy and math. Her name was Anayeli, and she was a wonderful student.

Every day that we met, I helped her complete pages in her workbooks.  We would start by reviewing reading comprehension activities where she was required to read a passage, understand it, and then reflect on it by answering multiple-choice questions.  Sometimes this was difficult for her because not all of the questions were based on facts that were mentioned in the text. Some of them asked about the main ideas of the passage or the meaning of fact versus opinion.

Once we had done a substantial amount of work, we would move on to her writing book. This was one of her weakest areas because it was increasingly difficult for her to be creative and formulate full sentences. For example, when the question would ask her to write about school or favorite foods, she wouldn’t know how to devise a complete answer.  Throughout the five weeks, I encouraged her to spend extra time thinking about or outlining ideas, and then formally writing them in sentences when she was ready.

Math was her greatest strength, and I enjoyed watching her answer problems quickly and coherently. Yet, when she was quizzed on these topics, she didn’t perform as well. The especially stressful environment of an assessment made her forget the information that she had practiced for so long. Luckily, I could relate to this because of my past experience, and I was able to advise her on how to take tests and quizzes in the future.

When she didn’t understand something, I would teach her the concept until she felt comfortable about it and could do it on her own. She was a very fast and cooperative learner and would usually be able to do her work perfectly once explained. I took this photo of her after she had just figured out a small metaphor used in a reading comprehension problem. Even though it took a while for her to grasp the meaning, I was exceedingly proud of her when she did.

I also got the opportunity to tutor a six-year-old boy, who is showed in this picture, for one day in literacy and math. After having such an obliging and mature girl as Anayeli to teach, it was increasingly strenuous to teach a younger, more reluctant child. He was very intelligent, but he didn’t want to focus or work on the activities planned. It was also a continuous struggle for me to find the line between friend and teacher when I tried to get him to complete his work. I didn’t want to become too strict, but I also did not want him to think he could take advantage of my leniency.

Overall, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed and took away from participating in this program. Being able to understand the way Anayeli’s mind functioned and what her strengths and weaknesses were helped me find the best ways that I could teach her the things that she struggled with most. When I knew that she understood something because of the way I taught it to her, it made me very happy, and it became the most rewarding part. The fact that these kids could have a great amount of academic potential like she has, but might not be able to express it because of their financial positions was one of the biggest reasons I chose to spend my summer tutoring. Knowing that I can help someone’s learning process so much by merely teaching one concepts that are simple to me is an amazing thing. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my summer any other way, and it encouraged me to do more service not only for our school but also to give back to the community.


3 thoughts on “Julia’s Summer of Service Reflection

  1. Julia,

    Your reflections from your service experience would make any teacher’s heart soar. You have described so beautifully the hard work and rewards that come with teaching. I appreciated the discernement you showed in figuring out how to reach Anayeli–addressing her needs and alleviating her stress.

    I also appreciate what motivated you to give five weeks of your summer to some pretty challenging volunteer work. We need more citizens to become engaged in addressing the many challenges we face with our country’s educational system. Anayeli and the 6-year-old, distractible boy represent a broad spectrum of children in the United States who need support and encouragement with their academic progress. Thank you Julia for finding the time and sharing your talents with them.

    I don’t know if you are aware but Friends Seminary has a public purpose partnership with The GO Project which provides year-round supplemental programming to public school students from lower Manhattan. Our campus is used during the summer to run their Middle School GO Summer programs. Organizations like GO and the JCC need all the support we can give them. They really are making a difference in the lives of so many young people.

    Thanks for sharing your service experience. -Leitzel

  2. Julia, your work with Anayeli is bountiful. You never scrimped on time, energy or creativity in working with her. You should know that YOU will be remembered by her always, as children remember people who affect them greatly. You have talent and a gift for connecting to people with genuine open- hearted ness. I wish you a productive future in what ever you do.
    Ms. Daly, your advisor

  3. Julia, What a truly inspiring and eloquent reflection you have written. It especially touched my heart because I recently read an article in The Sun Magazine by a man who described how a high school girl helped him learn how to read when he was a struggling elementary school student. He credits her with literally changing the path of his life. I am sure you have had a similar impact on Anayeli.

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