My name is Micah Bybee. I’m a fourth grade student at Millville Elementary School in Millville, Utah. My teacher, Mrs. Bartelt, asked for volunteers to work as peer tutors in her classroom. She explained that she needed them to teach a few students who needed extra practice in reading. I like reading, and I wanted to help other children have fun reading. My parents gave their permission for me to be a peer tutor in my classroom every morning for twenty minutes.
It took Mrs. Bartelt about four days to train me to be a peer tutor. I learned how to teach a special reading assignment to a girl named Erica Bothwell (a fictitious name) * who has a learning disability. Most of the time it was fun and exciting to be a peer tutor. But it also took a lot of hard work to help her learn how to read words that I thought everyone knew.
I taught Erica how to sound out letters and to read words from a workbook and some other books. Afterward, she read her lessons to Mrs. Bartelt. It was exciting to hear Erica say the sounds and words that I had taught her. She and I were both excited when our teacher placed a special marker on the bulletin board after Erica had completed her first workbook. I invited her over to my house after school, and we celebrated by eating ice cream!
Erica worked very hard during our tutoring sessions, and we enjoyed being together every morning, sitting at a separate table where we reviewed words. She was patient with me, and I learned to be patient with her. Words that came easily to me were often very hard for her to learn. She was often frustrated because she couldn’t learn as fast as most of the other students. But whenever she was discouraged, we worked even harder to learn new words. I brought some stickers from home to give to her whenever she passed off a chapter in her workbook with Mrs. Bartelt. Sometimes after school, Erica and I would practice her reading assignments and do math homework too.
I felt like a real teacher as I tutored, and I noticed that my own schoolwork improved. I concentrated more during school, and I studied harder. Before I became a tutor, I didn’t like doing my homework. Now I do it because I understand how valuable it is to try hard and to learn new things. I was able to practice my own reading skills, too, which made me a better reader. I am more accepting now of children with handicaps. My mother said that I’ve become more tolerant of my sisters’ behavior at home too. Now I accept them for their own personalities and abilities and try not to be critical of their imperfections.
Erica hadn’t liked reading because it was so difficult for her, and she’d felt embarrassed when she tried to read in front of others. The tutoring taught her reading skills and gave her confidence to read more difficult words and stories. She began to feel the joy that comes from being able to read an entire story and understand its meanings.
Erica and I became good friends, and I learned that people who have handicaps like to do many of the same things that I do. I also better understand that we are all children of our Heavenly Father and that we should respect and love each other. We have differences, but we are more alike than we realize. For example, Erica and I both enjoy riding our bikes. We watch TV together and go to swimming lessons on Saturdays. We even practiced reading the Book of Mormon together. I’m so glad that I had the chance to be her tutor. I think that she’s glad too.
I worked with Erica for the whole year, and the time went very fast. It wasn’t very long before she started checking out books from our school library. Her mother and dad were excited to hear Erica reading to her brothers and sisters.
When the school year was over, I wondered who learned the most—Erica or me.
Micah, who helped write this article, and Erica were unavailable for photographing. Their friends Carrie White and Amberlie Allred have also been peer tutors and were pleased to serve as models.