In fairytales, fairy godmothers are whimsical characters – able to grant wishes with the wave of a wand. They are special figures in the life of a main character that help to make their dreams come true. For one teacher at the William E. Russell Elementary School in Dorchester, fairy godmothers aren’t just storybook characters anymore – she has met two who are helping one of her students in real life.
A bubbly first grader in Ms. Ryan’s classroom last year, Josie clearly had a lot of potential. Ms. Ryan describes her as the type of student who probably knew the answer most of the time, but would rarely raise her hand. An English Language Learner, Josie was verbally communicative in English but struggled to transfer those skills into her reading. When Ms. Ryan received her Power Lunch nomination forms, Josie seemed like a perfect fit for the program.
As with many Power Lunch students, Josie was matched with two volunteers who alternate weeks visiting with her. Jen and Diana, two attorneys from Ropes & Gray, arrived to collect Josie from her classroom on the first day and the three bonded instantly. Ms. Ryan joked that she knew she didn’t have to teach Josie how to tell time because she was always ready for Power Lunch when 11 a.m. rolled around each Wednesday.
It wasn’t long before Ms. Ryan started asking a little more of Jen and Diana, now dubbed Josie’s “fairy godmothers.” She would identify skills that they could focus on each week, like increasing Josie’s fluency. Instead of allowing Josie to point to words she thought she didn’t know, Ms. Ryan coached Jen and Diana to have her hold the book. With the book in her own hands and knowing that finger pointing was only for tough words, Josie read more confidently and fluently.
Ms. Ryan described Jen and Diana as sponges – able to become reading teachers within 30 seconds of giving them books that might be of particular help to Josie. This willingness to soak up information represents what Ms. Ryan called a team effort between Power Lunch teachers and the eager Power Lunch volunteers. She said that seeing what she teaches in the classroom carry over somewhere else is incredibly uplifting. “It means it is working!” she exclaimed.
Ms. Ryan shared that Josie did make the benchmark for 1st grade at the end of the school year and visibly loves reading now. “Kids think about Power Lunch a lot!” she said. “It’s not just one hour a week for them – it does affect their reading, confidence and participation.”
Now a second grader, Josie continues meeting with her fairy godmothers and truly looks forward to the next page of their story each week.