You would think that by coming back to the Center for Literacy after a long winter break I would be refreshed and ready to tutor, but that was far from the truth as I stood outside the van last Wednesday. I have been struggling with a self-diagnosed case of seasonal mood disorder, so I kept making excuses that walking in the cold was putting a damper on my service experience. Plus it surely did not help that 20 minutes prior to service, I was bundled up underneath warm blankets, recovering from my week full of 8 a.m. classes. But I could not keep hiding from the truth. The fact was that I just did not want to tutor; I was in a funk. I lost my passion for service and I really felt guilty.
My learner, Frances, was sporadically not showing up to service, which definitely made me question my tutoring. I saw such an improvement in both her reading and math skills over the past semester and I felt incredibly proud of her. But with these abnormal absences, I could not help but wonder if Frances thought the same. Did she think our tutoring sessions were a waste of time? Was everything okay with her personal life? Who was that guy on the phone who always made Frances cut our sessions short? Why would Frances wear skimpy outfits to tutoring if she was coming from work? These questions lingered over my mind for the past month and especially on the first trip of the year to the Center for Literacy.
Once we arrived to the CFL, I saw that Frances was not at our usual table. Within minutes I was taken aside by Mark in the back room. My heart began to pound, as I was afraid for the worst. Due to the strict attendance policy, Frances was asked to leave the tutoring sessions. I soon learned that Frances has supposedly been working a lot of night shifts at the airport, which was why she has not been showing up for our sessions. Although I was skeptical, I accepted this news. But I could not help but feel a little discouraged and sad that I would never see Frances again. I really just wanted to say goodbye and thank her for everything that she has taught me. But then Mark interrupted my thoughts with the news that I would now be taking the place of Annie and tutoring Brenda.
As I introduced myself to Brenda, I quickly retreated to feelings of nervousness and excitement from the very first day of service. After I broke the news to her that Annie would no longer be her tutor, I sensed a familiar feeling of grief. It was in this moment that I realized that we were in the same position. With that in mind, I decided to make the best of this opportunity. So I did what I knew best, and asked her to play a game of 20 questions.
From our game I learned a lot about Brenda’s life. I learned that she believes in signs, wants to grow in a more spiritual way by reading the Bible, cooks a lot of Italian food, loves to travel, enjoys every shade of green, hates parallel parking and never wants to stop talking. Needless to say, we are a perfect match for each other. After a lot of laughing and a little work, we both felt that this is indeed a good change. We decided that we could multitask by forming our own bible study session, which would not only better Brenda’s reading skills but my own spiritual life. With this said, Brenda has awakened me from my funk. I am once again proud to say that I am looking forward to Wednesday evening.