Intern Spotlight: Robert Oakley

Name: Robert Oakley
Hometown: New Haven, CT
College and Major: Western Connecticut State University B.S. Computer Science & B.M. Music Performance
Tutoring Site: Bristol
Clubs: 2 Chess Clubs, Math Club II (Multiplication and Division)
Favorite Childhood Book: The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins and The Animorph Series by K.A. Applegate

Working with New Haven Reads this summer has been a wholesome learning experience for both the kids and me! This is my first summer being involved with New Haven Reads. The New Haven Reads mission is nothing new to me being a graduate of Music Haven. The programs are fundamentally identical in their reach to under-represented individuals in the education system and that’s what makes this so enjoyable for me. It feels like home when I get to work with children to show them that they are fully capable. My time at New Haven Reads has solidified a few ideals for me as well. It has proven to me again that the only way children can learn is to give them a space where they feel comfortable, show them that you care about them and their success, and to give no room for negativity and humiliation in the classroom. Mistakes should be encouraged as a natural part of the learning process; if we allow kids to feel bad for making mistakes, they will never feel confident enough to actually try the material. 

One of my most memorable experiences working as an intern is definitely the tutoring. I like to make it clear to my kids that it is their time to shine in tutoring; I am only a resource that activates when they need it. Giving that supported independence really made the kids motivated to try and succeed. I tutor these two brothers at Bristol and they really make my week every time I meet with them. I remember one day I was working with a student and I heard some commotion in the background of his audio. I asked what was going on and I got the report that his brother didn’t want to go to his tutoring session because he, the young man I was tutoring, was working with me. I remember in that moment feeling a conflation of emotions and the one that stuck out the most was gratitude. I was so thankful that my teaching was desirable because that meant I had achieved the goals I set: to make a safe space for mistakes and to care about each student I work with to the fullest extent of my power. That is what teaching is about to me and New Haven Reads gave me a platform to do what I love: helping other people see their strengths and overcoming any obstacle or adversity.

A special thank you to First Niagara Foundation in partnership with KeyBank for giving me this amazing opportunity.