"Mr. Quack" Learns a Lesson

Mr. "Quack" authored this piece about his work as a SOWMA tutor.

by Kevin Quackenbush
SOWMA tutor

His small size belied the enormous energy he brought into the room. He arrived to work on his homework and read a bit before selecting one of the many games and learning activities that peppered the shelves.

Ja’Mai’s mom made that game plan clear to him upon arrival.  Still, his nature was to immediately investigate everything and everyone in the room and engage with them. Homework was low on his personal agenda.  

At our first meeting my goal was simply to establish a rapport with Ja’Mai. In that effort I had a leg up as my name tag read, ‘Ask Quack.’  We enjoyed a few minutes of the usual reaction over the name … initial disbelief, eventual acceptance and then introducing me to kids near and far as he bellowed “Quack.”  Instantly I became known as "Mr. Quack." Each week thereafter my arrival to the Conway House was heralded with a chorus of “Mr. Quack” from the kids.

It was clear from the outset that Ja’Mai was a bright boy and had an excellent grasp on math.  He could also read well, when he was so inclined. Over time Ja’Mai and I progressed more easily into the work at hand followed by reading.   If the evening had gone well, we had at least 20 minutes left for a game of his choice. 

Rules were negotiable to Ja’Mai, and especially when playing a game, as he changed them to fit the moment.  Nonetheless we had fun and our rapport grew steadily over the months that followed. My level of acceptance was highlighted one evening when Ja’Mai’s younger brother, Ja’Mari,  joined us.  Ja’Mai said to his brother, “You can sit with me and Mr. Quack.  He’s nice.”

Oh, we had our moments. Ja’Mai had evenings where he was headstrong, or grumpy from a bad day … and yet, our friendship was undeniable.

I very much enjoyed my many months with Ja’Mai.  The most difficult part was not the weekly challenge to help him continue to grow, rather it was knowing that each week might be our last. You enter into this tutoring collaboration hoping you can partner with a child long enough to make a difference, yet also hope they find permanent housing.  These thoughts are inherently at odds with each other in my mind and so it’s both a joyful and a sad week when finally they leave and the chair is replaced by another child pointing cheerfully at my name tag. 

Thank you Ja’Mai and Ja’Mari, for being a bright spot in my life.  I wish you both a wonderful life.  

We took the photo above at our last tutoring visit.



Donate Now

 

 

Stay Informed

Join our mailing list to be notified of all our latest news and events.

Connect with Us

We're on social networks. Follow us and stay in touch.

United Way of Greater Plymouth County

Contact us

School on Wheels - MA
100 Laurel Street
Suite 121
East Bridgewater, Massachusetts 02333

508.587.9091

Federal Tax ID 20-1020880
Careers