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Mayra

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Mayra is in fifth grade, but she struggles to complete basic addition and subtraction problems. Week after week we would review addition, drilling basic problems like four plus four. When she had reached the mathematic understanding of a first grader, we moved on to advanced addition, working on dozens of problems each week. Most of the kids in the apartment complex she lives in are well behind grade level in all academic areas and have yet to master basic skills like reading or writing.
Each week I sat down with Mayra and we reviewed the concepts we’d been working on for the past year. I was frustrated by her lack of progress, but what was even more troubling to me was her lack of concern. Why couldn’t she realize how important these skills were? Didn’t she care about her future?
I don’t know if Mayra actually made any gains in math. I hope she began to appreciate the structured nature of our time. I want her to understand how important hard work is. In reality, I suspect our time together had a far greater impact on me than it did on her. My own education, which I often view as a chore, has taken on new meaning. My world view has been changed because of Mayra.
I don’t know if Mayra will benefit from our time together. She continues to struggle with math, unable to complete complex subtraction problems. She squirms when we read, stumbling over most of the words. Her impatience makes it impossible to have serious discussions.
The difficulties of service tempt me to abandon our tutoring sessions. Watching Mayra blatantly ignore the advice I give her has been painful. Her lack of motivation to excel is a foreign idea to me. Perhaps one day she will look back on the hours we spent together and appreciate the skill set we built. Maybe she will remember her trips to my house, and decide that they have shaped who she is. I will graduate and leave for college, and our contact will be drastically cut. I may never learn if I impacted her. Service must be fueled by a genuine desire to help, a determination to continue, and the realization that we serve for our own sakes. I hope that eventually, Mayra too will learn these lessons.





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