Meet James. He’s currently a level one in Standard Three here at Nyota. I had the pleasure of teaching him for six weeks as well as doing personalized one to one sessions with him twice a week. I get to know James a little bit more every time I’m with him. He’s painfully shy, and will never really look you in the eye. In Kenya, it’s quite common for children not to look at those in a position of authority out of respect. But he will always find a way to stand close to me and will linger around and wait for me to ask him how his day is; it’s really sweet. I came to learn that he really loves reading and getting the chance to do this with me one on one was big for him. He is behind his peers in English, but it never gets in the way of his learning. He’s always willing to try and asks questions when he needs clarification. He really wants to learn. I love that about him.
At first, he started off shy.. and well, he still is shy to be honest. But his reading has opened him up and has gotten much better than in the beginning. He mumbles less and doesn’t look as if he mentally beats himself up when he confuses a word with something else or doesn’t pronounce a word quite right. He is able to answer more of my questions without relying on the pictures as much and will even try to answer a few of my own questions about him. His confidence in reading and in talking to me has grown and I’m so proud of how far he has come.
After our last one to one session I thanked him for reading with me and congratulated him on his confidence and how much his reading had changed over the past six weeks. He looked away, nodded and then threw a piece of paper at me and ran back to class. I opened up the little note that was crumpled in his hand throughout the whole lesson. While there were spelling mistakes, it’s a note that I’ll always keep because it will remind me of this little boy who cared about me so much. It was sweet how the whole class knew because they would all make sure I knew if James was there as he was too shy to say anything.
The next day was my last day teaching at Nyota and since I was coming back as the Education Officer, I really didn’t expect a leaving ceremony but I got one anyways! During the celebrations I had some of my students try to get James to come dance with us but to no avail – he was far too quick. Until I heard cries of “Madam! Madam!” I turned and saw a group of 4 kids pulling James my way. I was quick and grabbed his hand. His face sunk far into his arms but I could see the great smile on his face. While this moment was quite fleeting, it’s one I’ll always remember and I’m sure he will too.
It’s because of one to ones that you really get to know your students. It’s such a dream to have some special time set aside to work on particular skills, to read, and to help them in their studies. Because some children are shy I can see the most effective one to ones being done by those who are volunteering here on a long term basis. They get to know the child, build up trust and respect and then really get to dig deep into the learning. Without one to one’s James wouldn’t have the improvements he has to be proud of today and I’m so thankful he has had the opportunity to get the support he’s needed to get to where he is now. I am so proud of him and look forward to seeing where he’ll go next.