In this workshop, experienced tutor John Reece presents creative ideas for group and 1-on-1 tutoring. Often, students do not have homework or may be reluctant to do homework or more traditional lessons. An innovative, fresh approach to target student interests and get them engaged can make a world of difference. This workshop is appropriate for tutors working with students of any age, but may be especially useful for grades 6-12.
About the Presenter: John Reece is a retired sailor, having spent 20 years in the US Navy during and after the Vietnam era. He is also a retired Aerospace Logistics Engineer and Manager of Technical Publications and Training. Since his retirement he has been focusing on improving his public speaking skills with Toastmasters and looking for ways to help young people with their schoolwork, particularly with math.
Recent middle school graduate Zarina Yunis, age (almost!) 14, discusses her experiences tutoring with School on Wheels.
Middle and high school students are often looking for opportunities to volunteer and earn service hours. I highly recommend tutoring for School on Wheels. School on Wheels is a non-profit organization that helps support the educational needs of homeless students in Southern California. Tutor coordinators find volunteers to tutor homeless children living in motels, domestic violence shelters, and even kids who live on the streets. Tutoring for School on Wheels enables volunteers to utilize their academic skills while also helping other students achieve their potential.
I discovered School on Wheels when my mother became a tutor with them three years ago. She would tutor at our local library, and my brother and I would do our homework at a nearby table. I would often notice her students struggling with the math concepts they were learning in school. I had just learned some of these concepts myself, so I offered to help explain some of the concepts. I could relate well to these students because we were similar in age, and it was easy for me to guide them. That was when I found myself to have a knack for tutoring, so when I turned 12, I decided that I wanted to become a tutor myself. I filled out the online application, submitted my references, and participated in both the online and in-person trainings. Within a couple weeks, the regional coordinator had a student for me, and I was ready for my first tutoring session.
Because I wasn’t yet 16, I participated with my mother in a family tutoring session. We were each assigned our own student. For those who aren’t tutoring with their parents, a parent or guardian only needs to be on the premises. Our first students were twins, so my mother and I each tutored one. Every Wednesday after school, my mother would drive me to our local library, and we would spend an hour helping the twins with their homework and areas where they were struggling. After several sessions I could see a significant improvement in my student’s math and reading abilities. Another student I had was struggling in math and needed help with double digit multiplication and long division. I approached it several different ways, but finally made her a “cheat sheet” that listed the actions for her to follow step-by-step along with explanations. She would use this sheet to walk her through each problem. Because she had a specialized educational plan that allowed for modifications, her teacher allowed her to use the guide when she was taking her test. She did very well on the test, and this made me feel proud of her and good about myself for helping her. I enjoy watching my students learn and grow after receiving guidance from me. It is gratifying to help students in need in any way I can.
This summer, I started group tutoring. Every Wednesday, I go to an elementary school to tutor a group of students who have signed up for the program. These students work on either an online math program or phonics program. While they work, the tutors move from student to student to see how they can help. In this method of tutoring, students are taught to be independent but have access to help when they need it. In contrast to the one-on-one tutoring experience, sometimes tutors are managing multiple students. It can be challenging at times, but it develops important skills that will help me in all aspects in my life.
In order to be able to teach a concept well, you have to know it well yourself. Tutoring enhances your own academic knowledge while helping others learn. Tutors use their creativity to demonstrate concepts in ways that deepen their student’s understanding. Tutoring for School on Wheels allows the opportunity to have a positive impact on the education of vulnerable populations. It has been a rewarding experience for me, and I highly recommend others to dedicate their time and get involved.
“When I saw your booth at the event I was attending for work; I had to come over and say ‘Hi’ and ‘Thank you!’ I was homeless with my two daughters in 2008 and School on Wheels was one of the first agencies that provided us with support and helped us get back on our feet.” Valerie has three teaching credentials and is now an associate with the government helping rehabilitate serious offenders back into society. She knows what it’s like to be ‘down and out’ (her words) even if her clients and boss don’t know that she used to be homeless. Valerie said that School on Wheels helped her during a very tough time. She had left her husband after he became violent because of mental illness and was ‘couch surfing’ – moving from place to place with her two young girls. School on Wheels provided them with books and school supplies, and they met their tutors weekly at a local coffee shop.
“You don’t realize how much organizations like yours change lives,” said Valerie.
“Access to resources that come around and assist families in such dire straights really helps you to keep going. Knowing that you are cared about, having one-on-one personal touch and that continuation of care, is what helped me and my girls get out of a rut and move forward. Having gone through what we did as a family and getting the help that we needed, I can’t believe we are where we are today! My youngest daughter is almost 18 and getting ready to start college in the fall, and my eldest daughter is 25 and running her own business.”
July was a busy month for summer learning. We provided our students and tutors with tools from our Summer Learning Program to help them avoid summer learning loss through reading and making connections to strengthen their comprehension skills. We attended a successful senior expo event where we connected with multiple higher aged volunteers to focus on inter-generational relationships for our tutors and students. A former School on Wheels parent, Valerie, shared her beautiful story on how our tutoring program impacted her two daughters (Read the story here). Lastly, we would like to thank our donor of the month, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern California.
Region 8 – Ventura County:
Rachel Bravo – Because my employer, Ventura County Credit Union, allows employees to volunteer during work hours, I wanted to do something to help kids. My son had just left for college, and I was hoping to help other kids get that opportunity. I “met” School on Wheels and loved how there was such a close connection between the tutors, families and the organization. I’ve tutored Ryleigh for almost two school years and have enjoyed learning with her. Ryleigh is starting middle school next year and I hope to be able to move on with her.
Region 1 – East LA:
Chris Webster – After moving to Los Angeles from the UK in 2015, I was shocked to see the number of homeless and displaced people having to survive in the city. Working with Schools on Wheels makes me feel like I’m doing something to support my community. Meanwhile, the time I’ve spent with my student has been incredibly rewarding. Whilst I may have helped him with his schoolwork, there’s an in-the-moment wisdom to him which I try to take away from all of our sessions.
Region 8 – Ventura County:
Ben Morgan – As a child of two educators, School on Wheels has given me an outlet for my genetic predisposition towards teaching. I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the organization as a whole. The time commitment for tutoring is modest, and yet it has been so rewarding getting to know Charlie and seeing him progress over the last school year. As a bonus, my pre-algebra skills are the best they’ve been in decades!
Ryleigh (Grade 5) I enjoy learning things that I don’t know. I enjoy doing art projects, especially drawing and painting and lots of color. I have worked hard on learning fractions and multiplication. I would like people to know that I am very capable when it comes to doing schoolwork. When my little sister starts school, I will tell her to pay attention so she will know what to do.
Diego (1st Grade) is a very intelligent young man with a wicked sense of humor. When it comes to schoolwork, he is particularly gifted at math – and takes pride in solving sums as quickly as he can. A lack of confidence in his own reading ability has sometimes slowed him down, and so we’ve spent a large amount of time reading together. As a consequence, over the past year I’ve watched Diego’s reading skills grow exponentially and his level of interest in reading books has also surged – which has been a real delight to see. – Chris Webster, Tutor
Charlie (9th Grade)
Tutor: “Why do you like this t-shirt?”
Charlie: “I love pugs; pugs are too cool for school”
But Charlie isn’t. When we first started tutoring together, Charlie did not like school one bit. His grades were not good and he hated homework. It was a huge struggle to get him to focus on any school work at all. He was failing most subjects.
It wasn’t easy but Charlie, to his credit, and despite many struggles in his life, kept coming to tutoring every week. Now, we read books together, his homework is always complete, and his grades are significantly improved. In fact, his recent grades included an A for science; and, B in math and language arts. It was one of the very few times I saw him genuinely proud of himself.
Tutor: “Why is school different for you now? Why are your grades so much better?”
Charlie: “Tutoring helps me focus. It makes me want to work harder because you believe I can. I even like to read now!”