Q & A with Ariel DuVal Zinn
At the Literacy Center of West Michigan, we are serious about not just talking the talk of literacy but also walking the walk. Most of our staff members are also tutors themselves.
Ariel DuVal Zinn is the Literacy Center's AmeriCorps Coordinator, and has been tutoring Mike Crumb since February 2016. In this month's Q & A, Ariel tells us about her experience as a volunteer tutor with the Literacy Center.
What was it like when you first got started tutoring Mike?
"Mike and I began meeting at the public library, and I tried to always take 10 minutes in the beginning to talk. I'd ask questions about Mike's life and then I'd share what was happening with me. We worked on building a friendship rather than establishing a strict tutor-learner interaction."
What was your proudest moment as a tutor?
"I've found that Mike has a hard time with writing. So one time after we read a book, I asked him to write a book report on it. It took us about six weeks to get through the whole writing process from draft to finished product, but we stuck with it. Mike wound up with a brief book report where he summarized the book and expressed his opinion about it. His book report even ended in The Reader [the Literacy Center's learner/tutor newsletter]."
What has tutoring taught you?
"Every couple of months Mike would have a bad day, the material wouldn't be clicking for some reason, and he would get frustrated. I think that's because when you are working on improving things in yourself, you don’t always see the small successes along the way.
But what I see more often than he does are his improved inference skills and his increased ability to comment and express his opinion. These are abilities that he was lacking in the beginning. Tutoring taught me how to give the same support that I gave him to myself and celebrated the little successes."
What’s your favorite part of your tutoring session?
"We have a routine, and it works really well for us; so every session is a great session. We always end our tutor sessions reading a book.
Also, every time he takes a test we celebrate by going bowling. At that point, he turns into the teacher because I am an awful bowler. It's a dynamic shift that Mike enjoys; it gives him the opportunity to teach me something that he knows how to do very well."
What would you say to someone who is thinking about tutoring?
"Just try it. The commitment is only six months, and if you don't think it is for you, it is absolutely fine. Just know it is absolutely worth the time. And it is not only a benefit to the learners but to the tutors as well."