Sharon McBride has volunteered with CSV for five years, participating in the early literacy program as well as the Writer’s Workshop and Publishing programs with second and third graders.
As a volunteer, Sharon brings her own personal knowledge as a writer, and her love of children’s theater where she spent several years working as a puppeteer. She has a degree in children’s literature and has spent a dozen years in children’s publishing, working with everything from picture books to young adult non-fiction. She also has experience teaching in a special education classroom.
While in the classroom as a tutor, Sharon offers encouragement and support to specific students who the teacher feels need help for a few weeks or months to reinforce daily writing objectives. During Writer’s Workshop, she may “float” from table to table, working with any of the students. Occasionally she reads to the whole class at group time, which Sharon says is “one of my favorite things to do.”
Sharon McBride reading to one of her students.
One common challenge Sharon finds are students who resist writing. She points out that there are as many reasons for this as there are students. One second grader, Andrew, seemed especially unwilling to engage in the writing process. “I can’t spell; I don’t have any ideas,” was Andrew’s usual refrain. Over several months, Sharon developed strategies that helped to reassure him that it was okay if words were not spelled with conventional spellings. Sharon actively and carefully listened to Andrew, especially the subtext of what he was saying. She asked questions to evoke more information and was able to suggest topics that would be personally meaningful to him.
English was not Andrew’s first language, though he spoke and understood it. He often talked about how many different schools he had been to and how many languages he had to deal with in the different communities in which he had lived. For a class poetry writing exercise, Andrew asserted that he had “no ideas,” but when Sharon, responding to his cues, suggested that he could write a poem about his experiences with those many languages, he became excited and wrote a short, simple poem entitled, “I Speak.” After his classroom teacher printed his poem on a poster board and he shared it with the class (and to lots of peer praise), as Sharon says, “this reluctant writer had a moment of success that he clearly savored.”
For Sharon, the work she does with CSV is truly rewarding, especially when working with students like Andrew. She also brings her own experiences as a parent of two lively boys with very different learning styles who went through the Cambridge Public Schools. She has truly been able to impart her many skills and talents to all students.