Bonnie’s Story: A Tutor’s Perspective

As an Orton-Gillingham tutor living in Pickens County, I have served many youngsters since retiring in 2007, and prior to then as well. The teachers of some of the students have been the ones to recommend me to tutor their students, and the parents of others of the students have been the ones to seek me out.

In the past several years, I have worked with seven students, some over a period of 3-4 years, twice weekly for 45-minute sessions. To fit their schedules (and because I’m not allowed to tutor at the schools), I have worked with students before or after school, on weekends, and either once a week or twice a week, through the school year and often through the summers.

When working with children, I always begin with the very basic phonemes of the English language by having the students write letters in the air while saying the sound and while watching me across from them as I joined in to write as well. From there, I typically teach what vowels are and what a syllable is; we build words with only one syllable and work on up to larger words, first underlining the vowel (the most important part of a word) and then dividing the word into syllables. Always the child is taught to his/her intellect and always they catch on quickly and LOVE being successful in breaking down a word! These are children with average to above-average IQs, and they CAN and DO learn once they are taught in the proper manner. Working one-on-one is most helpful. We include practicing reading, and I model the reading and let them read as well. Little by little, we improve fluency, and we discuss the story and vocabulary within the story to be sure that comprehension is in place.

These students are hard workers; often they have put in a whole day’s work at school and then come to see me, which I have always found quite inappropriate and unfair, actually. But the schools seem unwilling to allow tutors in. Nonetheless, these youngsters want to succeed and do succeed when taught in the manner that works for them. Their self-esteem and confidence improve greatly along the way! Many of these children are quite anxious and some to pull into themselves. To me, it is a moral injustice that these students are not being served while at school; they are bright and creative and possess gifts that are not unlocked in public school. We are making it extra challenging for them, and some go astray and may even end up incarcerated.

In addition to the elementary students, I have been tutoring a college student for two years. He is very bright and gets every concept but struggles to read. I have approached tutoring him in the same manner discussed above, and he has thrived and bloomed in his reading ability.

I get many phone calls from parents looking for a tutor to help their children, but I cannot serve many youngsters at a time and do a good job for each one—another reason we need public schools to serve these students!

Clearly there are students who could benefit from a public school where they would get the appropriate instruction during the school day when they are freshest. With the use of the Orton-Gillingham approach—or another primarily phonetic and simultaneously multisensory approach—they would be able to spend their entire day in an atmosphere where they are understood and are taught appropriately. There would be no need to hire and pay a tutor or to feel as though they were so odd and different in having to do so. Nor would they have to be taught at the end of a long day when they are often too tired are definitely not at their peak time to learn. Plus, there are not enough Orton-Gillingham or Wilson-trained tutors to serve the children in need!

It is my intense desire to see the birth of the Lakes and Bridges Charter School and to witness the success and joy of the 1 in 5 children who struggle with language.

Bonnie A. Kelley Member, Founding Committee

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