When I moved to Washington, DC in June 2012, I wanted to volunteer with an organization in the area where I could work one-on-one with someone to have a sense of consistency and to have a more tangible grasp on how my time was making a difference. When I found FLOC, through the recommendation of a friend-of-a-friend, it was icing on the cake that I found an organization where I would not only serve my community, but also strengthen my skills in curriculum development and lesson planning.
The first day I met Malik, I knew FLOC had made a great match. We completed the getting-to-know-you worksheets in his guidebook and learned about the countries and places we wanted to visit and our favorite subjects in school. I learned that Malik had visited my hometown, Virginia Beach, and that he likes to go fishing with his grandfather. I shared some stories from my time in Mali, where I served for close to four years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and Malik told me about the West African drumming he does in school. Who knew that I would find so much in common with a 6th grade boy?
Four months later, I still look forward to every Tuesday evening when Malik and I meet at FLOC headquarters for two hours in Adams Morgan. We use a curriculum guide to get his reading and writing up to his grade level and a vocabulary workbook to improve Malik’s store of words. We’ll read aloud, or silently, from one of his favorite books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and we usually wrap up our sessions with a rousing game of Connect Four or Monopoly. I love learning more about Malik and seeing him flourish as a student. I think he likes having two hours of undivided attention and seeing his reading and writing improve so much.
It’s already early February and Malik and I only have a couple more months together before summer break. As I look ahead, I hope that we can maintain the momentum we’ve had thus far and continue to enjoy our time together as much as it seems we both have. I continue to learn from Malik about what it means to be a sensitive, curious and joyful person and I hope I can share some of my qualities with Malik, too. When I moved to Washington, DC I wanted to be able to see how my time was making an impact. It’s such a treat to work with Malik and see the results of our hard work right in front of me with a smile on his face – and mine!
(Jennifer Bangoura is a tutor in the Tuesday Night Reading program).