Month: February 2016

Feb 22

Kevin Bacon makes a visit to our Skid Row Learning Center

On Friday, February 19 Kevin Bacon, the well-known musician and actor, stopped by our Skid Row Learning Center to hang out with our students, learn about our Digital Learning Program, and answer questions our students had about his life and success. We are inspired by the work he does at and hope he can drop by again soon!

Feb 16

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 2/16/2016

Question: I am a new volunteer tutor at a group home in Monrovia. The location currently only has 2 tutors to 8 students who go in only once a week. My questions are:

1) How to manage time better to help as much as I can when there are potentially 7-8 students who may need homework help? I have had at each session 1-3 students who need help during the entire time I am there.

2) How to establish a more structured tutoring session? I’ve had difficulty trying to balance 2-3 students at the same time asking for help on very different subjects (math and history for example). We end up doing the homework together, but it’s not really helping them learn to do it on their own. I am afraid they will become dependent on waiting for us to do their homework and not do it in advance on their own.

Whenever I have to tutor multiple students simultaneously, I always have the students work on the problems that they could complete independently without my help. If a student says they can’t complete any of the homework on their own, encourage them to choose one problem and just try their best to solve it. I always tell my students that it’s better to try and get the incorrect answer rather than not try at all.

Once all the students start working on their homework, first help the student that seems to be struggling the most. Work with them to solve only one of the problems and see if they have any questions. If they don’t, then have them solve the rest of the problems on their own. After working with the first student, find another student who is struggling. Continue the pattern of showing students how to solve one problem until you have visited everyone.

Remind students that you will try to meet up with each of them for a few minutes, but let them know that they should be working on their homework so you can see their thought process and best figure out what they need to work on. I also tell them that if they just wait and don’t try to complete their homework, then it’ll be harder for me to help them; it’s easier for me to help if I see their work when they solve problems.

If students have similar kinds of homework or are learning similar concepts, then you can teach them simultaneously. Students can also work together in pairs or small groups. The goal is to encourage students to try and solve the problem on their own even if they are unsure about how to approach the problem. It’s definitely a challenging situation to tutor multiple students, but it’ll be easier for you to identify their academic strengths and weaknesses as you continue to tutor them. The better you know their academic skills, the easier it’ll be for you to manage your time and help out more students.

About the Tutor: Natalie Platon has over seven years of experience working with K-12th grade students in different capacities and possesses a multiple subjects teaching credential. She has a deep passion for working in diverse and underserved communities and has worked in after-school programs, tutoring organizations, shelters, and schools. She currently works at KIPP Iluminar Academy in East LA as a full-time substitute teacher.

Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature?
Email askatutor [at] or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.

Feb 10

Ask A Tutor Tuesday 2/9/2016

My 6th grade student is severely behind and working at a 1st grade level.  Could it be a learning disorder?  What can I do to help him get assessed?”

Before you assume that a child has a learning disability, it’s important to talk to your regional coordinator about the behaviors you are noticing. It’s possible that your student is very far behind because he has moved schools and missed a lot of material. Parents can be alarmed if you outright propose that their child has a disability, so it is best to broach the topic carefully, and ask the parent if their child has ever been given a personal assessment. They may not know that this is even a possibility, and they may ask for more information. You can help provide support for parents if they decide they are interested in having their child assessed.

If your student’s parent wants to go forward with the assessment, they may give you permission to contact your student’s teacher (always ensure you have this permission before reaching out on your own). Usually, teachers are very happy to hear that the student has additional tutoring outside of school. You can also collect work samples such as a writing piece or document behaviors you might notice when your student is reading. Does your student stop frequently at every other word? When he/she does stop, what kinds of things does he/she do to try and figure out words? Additionally, keep track of what your student does when he/she gets stuck in any academic area you might be studying. Does he/she give up easily, does he/she try a strategy? Your observations from tutoring one on one will be help support the classroom teacher should he/she choose to recommend your student for assessment.

In the meantime, you can be a great benefit to your student by focusing on a foundational reading, writing or math skills during your tutoring sessions. While in school your student may be struggling to get through sixth grade curriculum, during tutoring sessions, you can focus on reading lower level books, creating complete sentences and spelling, or increasing addition/subtraction/multiplication fluency.

Whether your student gets tested or not, your role as a tutor is incredibly important and beneficial. If you are able to begin to fill in some of the academic gaps during your weekly tutoring sessions, your student will get closer and closer to feeling more successful in the classroom.

About the tutor: Jackie Romo has been a School in Wheels tutor for nearly 9 years. Aside from tutoring, she teaches first grade in Rowland Heights and recently earned a MS in reading. She is happy to help in any way she can to make your tutoring sessions successful!

Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature?
Email askatutor [at] or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.


Feb 3

February 2016 Newsletter

Hello Friend,

You helped make last year the best yet for School on Wheels and our students. Thank you! 3,491 homeless students in Southern California were tutored by 2,223 volunteers in 2015. How wonderful is that? We awarded scholarships to 19 awesome students, presented the prestigious President’s Volunteer Service Award to 124 volunteers, provided backpacks, schools supplies, uniforms, bus tokens and computers to over 7,000 homeless kids, and, we raised over $2,000,000 in funds.

The only way we can accomplish any of this work is because of you, our amazing volunteers and our wonderful, most generous donors. At a time when poor and homeless children are falling through the education cracks faster than we can save them, it is a true testament to your spirit and character that so many of you come together to help homeless students. California has the largest population of homeless students in the country and twice the rate of homeless students as the national average.

Fewer than 25% of these homeless students will graduate from high school.

We know that education improves lives and that investing in education wisely is an economic imperative for this country. Thank you for being there for our students. They need you. We need you. Please continue to advocate for them – tell your families, friends, neighbors, colleagues about how many homeless children there are in the United States (2.5 million) and how invisible and forgotten they are. They have no power and no voice in our society; but you do, and you are helping to change that.

With deep gratitude,

Catherine signature
Catherine Meek
Executive Director

Click here to see more from our February 2016 Newsletter

Feb 2

Ask A Tutor – 2/1/2016

Question: “There have been a lot of good suggestions about keeping your student motivated, but sometimes I find myself unmotivated and not seeing a difference in my student.”

We’ve all been there. It can be difficult to sustain motivation when you feel like you’re not seeing changes in your student, but rest assured, your consistent presence is making an impact. Mentoring and tutoring go hand in hand, so taking an interest in your student and modeling good educational practices are invaluable lessons. Teaching your student basic skills for school survival (organization, note-taking techniques, planning ahead, the importance of being on time) will aid them in their academics long after your sessions have ended.

However, if you are concerned that your student is not progressing academically, you can think about how you’re structuring your sessions. Are you only working on homework or have you done an assessment with your student to discover the ‘gaps’ in their education? While it is sometimes more convenient to rely on homework as a session activity, sometimes the work is beyond the student’s level, and the student would benefit more from reviewing material he/she has missed along the way.

Once you’ve done an assessment and have some idea of the main topics your student needs help with, you can set goals with your student. This will motivate both of you. If you’re working on random assignments from week to week, on many different subjects, it can be difficult to track changes, but if you plan strategically, you will begin to see progress. Set short and long-term goals. A short term goal might be to have your student compose a complex sentence. A long-term goal would be to have your student construct a unified paragraph.

Last, don’t forget to make your sessions fun! End every session with a short, 5 or 10 minute game as a reward for the hard work you and your student have done. Taking some time to bond with your student will make sessions more worthwhile for both of you.

Amanda Carr joined School on Wheels in early 2015. Before moving to California, she taught English and writing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and worked as a volunteer manager at the Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association.

Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature?
Email askatutor [at] or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.