Do you love tutoring with School on Wheels? Do you want to share that experience with a friend and help us reach even more homeless students in Southern California?
Our fall Refer a Friend Challenge begins today, September 14th, and will run through October 16th. During this time, we ask all current and former School on Wheels volunteers to refer friends, colleagues, family members, or anyone else who might be interested in tutoring with us. Make sure your friends select “Friend/Word of Mouth” from the “How did you hear about SOW” drop down menu on the application and include your name in the “Other” field.
The tutor who refers the most friends will receive an area gift certificate, and all other participants will be entered to win prizes in a raffle!
Sometimes I get very angry, sometimes sad, sometimes despairing as I think of all the homeless children we see every day. One in every 30 children in the U.S. experiences homelessness every year – that’s one student in every classroom in America. Why is this not a national crisis discussed by every political, religious, education and community leader in this country? Why does the media not talk about 2.5 million homeless kids? Is it too overwhelming to consider? Too hard to talk about? Too shameful to acknowledge?
I don’t have to tell any of you, our loyal and generous volunteers, donors and supporters, about the heart-breaking issue of homeless children. You are there for them every day, giving them the tools they need to succeed in school, the consistency of a mentor and positive role model, the hope we all need to survive. That’s a lot. Now I am asking you to take one more step: shout out loud for homeless kids. Make your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, political representatives, baristas, Uber drivers, understand the magnitude of this problem. Talk about how education is a critical link in breaking this terrible cycle of homelessness. Tell them about our students and how challenging their lives are. They have no power and no voice, but you do.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you do for our students. You are making an enormous difference in their lives.
Question: I had my first student for over a year, but after that, I’ve had a different student every 2 months. It’s been really hard to create a bond like I did with my first student. Do you have any suggestions?
When I began as a Volunteer at School on Wheels, I first started at an emergency shelter, where I was lucky if I worked with one student for a month. So, I understand your confusion and possible frustration with the situation. I got too attached to my first student and thought about all these ideas for teaching them. I’d become so invested, yet my student only stayed at the shelter for so long before eventually moving far away. After this, I realized I had to change my mindset and make goals that were short-term for the student.
As I worked with my student on homework and other activities, I began to ask myself each week: What do I want my student to learn today? Whatever it was, I tried to just make that day enjoyable and a good learning experience for them. I always socialized a bit too. Open yourself up to your student, ask how his/her day was, and tell your student one small interesting thing that happened with you. This can help create a friendlier dynamic and shift the burden off of you being a strict figure to someone who can at least make their day better. Through tutoring at the emergency shelter, I had to learn to be more flexible and work with my situation—adapting to these students and the circumstances of their lives.
So, here are the tips outlined:
Make short-term goals and continue as you go on. What would you want the student to learn today (the day you tutor them)? Example: strengthen addition skills. Focusing on the positive each day can help create a bond.
Make the best of the time you have with them, and try to be a positive role model for the short amount of time you are in their lives.
Ask about their day and interests. If they won’t talk much, tell them something funny that happened to you so that at least they will laugh. Ask some questions about tv shows, music, or books.
Each child is different, so you have to really try to get to know them and not view them as someone temporary. Focus on them right now because they are your student for the present. Allow yourself to be flexible with the kids you come across.
Keep in contact with the parent(s). This not only helps establish great communication, but also will encourage the family to like and trust you. They may more more dependable as a result.
I wish you the best of luck!
About the tutor: Timesia Garcia is a dedicated volunteer, passionate about helping others. She studies sociology at a local community college and has been tutoring with School on Wheels for almost two years.
– Tsuyoshi Johnson. TJ started tutoring with School on Wheels in May of this year. He tutors with the Teen Math program at one of our shelters in Santa Ana. He has the patience of a saint, and he is amazing working with the teens. Not only is he an outstanding tutor, but he is always happy to help in other ways. He has taken the lead in helping us test a new Khan Academy Pilot at the shelter, and he offers his support for new tutors at his site. It truly is a better tutoring experience for the teens because TJ is there! We are so thrilled to have him on our team. In his own words:
My tutoring experience with School On Wheels has been great! I am fortunate to have found this avenue to offer some assistance to kids with their studies. School On Wheels provides the perfect atmosphere for tutors and tutees to concentrate on the lessons. Also, the School On Wheels’ portal offers an online solution that allows you to log your sessions and track your progress with the kids.
Through the years I’ve found that most children have the necessary tools within them to be successful in school. However, there are so many kids who are in circumstances that are not conducive to such success. We are all born into certain situations without a choice in the matter. I often wonder why I was chosen to be born into my own unique situation where I had the essentials and the ability for my parents to play an active role in my success. These thoughts often led me to a feeling of guilt, but one day I decided that I too can provide support to kids to assist in their academic success. About four years ago, I decided to tutor. I enjoy it very much and find that, in working with kids, they are able to get my mind off of my daily responsibilities. It’s like they have a magical way of turning me into a kid again.
Lilian Pahn, Regional Coordinator
Region 3 – Westside
– Peter Westermayer. Peter is simply one of the most dedicated tutors I have ever met, and we are lucky to have him at School on Wheels. He has been tutoring Lily for years and has made such an impact on her life that it really exemplified to me just how special that tutor / student bond can be. Thank you so much, Peter, for your continued dedication, and we hope to have you many more years! I In his own words:
As with most wonderful things in life, I stumbled upon the great organization, School on Wheels. I was looking for volunteer opportunities in 2010. My first two assigned students were living with their families at the Union Rescue Mission and both boys were great. During my assignment both families were able to thankfully transition into permanent housing. I then took a break to work overseas with Doctors Without Borders in South Sudan for a few months, but I was eager to start again with SOW upon my return. My experiences in South Sudan only reinforced my belief that education is a lifeline. Since then my current student Lilly has been a wonder to me as Lilly is bright, articulate and very funny. Our three years together have been a journey upward in academic progress and increasing confidence. I am constantly amazed at how much difference one hour per week can make in a student’s academic life. These students need the extra help and attention to help them achieve an academic foundation and the springboard to realizing their dreams. What better way to “count one’s blessings” than to give back to the community of Los Angeles? I would recommend this program to anyone who is willing to lend a patient hand.
Kyle McDonough, Regional Coordinator
Region 5 – Hollywood, Silver Lake, Highland Park
– Daisy Salinas. This month we would like to highlight Daisy’s outstanding volunteer work with School on Wheels. Along with being a great tutor, Daisy decided to tutor two students at a time because there was a need for more help at the location. Daisy previously worked with children as a Teacher’s Assistant, which provided an opportunity to share their wonderful knowledge with students. We are grateful to have Daisy with us! When not tutoring, college course work and creating amazing art take up Daisy’s time. Thank you for all that you do! In Daisy’s words:
My brother was my first tutor. I was a terrible student. Couldn’t read, couldn’t write, my math was bad, but he worked with me to help me. I would be tired, my hand would be sore from all the writing. Sometimes we’d stay up all night just finishing homework or reading. It was tiring, but looking back it was worth every moment. I think it’s important to share one’s knowledge and experiences with others. Though the results and influence one has on others may not manifest itself right away, in the long run every little action has meaning. I am grateful to have the chance to with with both Andre and Denzel. Both their parents have worked so hard for them and care deeply about their education. I hope that I am a positive influence in their lives as well.
Lancella Hunter, Regional Coordinator
Region 6 – Inland Empire
– Mathangi Suresh. It is an honor to recognize Mathangi as Tutor of the Month. She has been a tutor for School on Wheels since 2014 and has been an exceptional inspiration to students! She is well respected and engages her students to help them meet their challenges and goals. In her own words:
I graduated from UC Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Biology in May of 2014, and am currently applying to medical school. My dream is to become a surgeon and spend some time serving in underserved and rural communities. I got involved with School on Wheels because I wanted to give back to my community and felt this program was the perfect way for me to share a part of myself with the wonderful people around me. The year I’ve spent with School on Wheels has been an amazing experience! I’ve met and become friends with a diverse group of students, each with their own unique dreams and goals. I have had so much fun working with my students and have learned a lot from them.
Trish Arias, Regional Coordinator
Region 8 – Ventura County
– Clinton and Eileen Vocke. Clinton and Eileen Vocke have been married for 35 years and have lived in Ojai for 30 years. With five grown children, and four grandchildren, ranging from age 1 to 21, they brought a breadth of wisdom and experience to tutoring at the Kids to Kids group home with girls. They heard about School On Wheels through their church newsletter and will be celebrating ten months as tutors in September! Despite the walls foster youth build up, Clinton and Eileen were patient, kind, and always arrive at the group home prepared with fun activities to engage the girls. In Eileen’s own words:
The group home was different than what we initially expected but we have found it very rewarding. The girls remind us so much of our own daughters. Although they are in very difficult circumstances, they always seem pleased to see us. Our greatest compliment was when one of the girls called us “everyone’s grandparents”. We are grateful for the opportunity to make a connection with these girls.
Terrie Soto, Regional Coordinator
Region 12 – North Orange County
– Naomi Sunshine. Naomi has been tutoring with School On Wheels for just a few months. In that time, she has shown dedication, care, and patience to her student Jonathan. As a future teacher, Naomi always brings energy and expertise. Week after week, she has a smile on her face and a new, creative activity perfectly tailored for Jonathan that inspires him to learn. In her words:
I truly believe student learning should not be hindered by the stresses of poverty. The simple act of supporting homeless children is a positive influence in their lives. As a future teacher, I understand how vital it is to close the educational gap for all students and to provide them with quality educational assistance that is modified to meet their unique needs. Volunteering for School on Wheels makes a positive difference in my life as well because I am able to create a meaningful bond with a student who faces adversities but is still working hard towards meeting his personal academic goals.
Laura Schickling, Regional Coordinator
– Sophia Batalha. Tutoring Railene for the past several months has been a wonderful experience because I know I am helping someone that needs the mentorship and support. Every time we have a lesson, we accomplish something. We fill out multiplication tables, read stories, and even work through division problems. When I first started online tutoring with School on Wheels, I was a little nervous. But, when I got more comfortable with tutoring as well as with using the online tutoring platform, I wasn’t nervous anymore and got excited before every session. Before I started tutoring with School on Wheels, I was oblivious to how many kids and teens need the help. I am glad my sister introduced me to School on Wheels!
Sophia, thank you for continuing to be a light for Railene and for showing up each week with so much energy and passion. Fun fact: Sophia (a high school student) online tutors Railene from across the nation with her older sister, Natasha Batalha (a graduate student). Online tutoring has enabled them to connect not only with their student, Railene, but also with each other, for an hour and a half each week.
Question: I have an 8th grade student with difficulty memorizing the multiplication table. What would be a good strategy to ask a student to keep practicing after the session?
What often happens with students is that they understand the concept of multiplication, but they have trouble recalling multiplication facts quickly. To help your student improve his multiplication speed, encourage him to practice every day. If you see him once a week, then give him flash cards so that someone can test him or he can test himself. You can make these cards together in one of your sessions. Encourage him to mix the flash cards so he can see if he truly know his facts.
When you have a session with your student, have him practice memorizing the multiples of each number. For example, if he needs to memorize the 3’s, then have him remember 3, 6, 9, and so on. Then help him make the association that if he needs to know a question such as 3×5, then he simply has to remember 3, 6, 9, 12, and finally 15. Your student can also practice memorizing these multiples on his own.
Another strategy is to have your student use addition or subtraction to figure out the answer of a multiplication fact. For example if he needs to know 3×9 and he already knows the answer of 3×10, then all he has to do is subtract (30-3) rather than remembering the multiples. Below, you will find some multiples worksheets I made for my elementary school students which have helped them to memorize their multiplication facts.
Last, be patient with your student and offer lots of encouragement. It may take some time before he learns all of his multiplication facts. Good luck!
About the Tutor: Natalie Platon possesses seven years of experience working with K-12th grade students in different capacities and is currently finishing her multiple subjects teaching program with CSU Los Angeles. She has a deep passion for working in diverse and underserved communities and has worked in after-school programs, tutoring organizations, shelters, and schools.
Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature?
Email askatutor [at] schoolonwheels.org!
Question: I’m a new tutor and I’m nervous about attending my first session. I’ve never tutored before and I’m not sure what to expect. My student is 15 and is starting 10th grade. Do you have any tips for breaking the ice?
-Nervous in Region 4
Hi, Nervous in Region 4!
First sessions are always the toughest. I’d suggest doing an activity with your new student that allows him/her to feel comfortable and, at the same time, allows the two of you to get to know each other. In the past, I brought an inexpensive composition book and told my student that this would be her tutor notebook. Along with the notebook, I brought two old magazines from home, scissors and glue. At our first session, I told her we’d personalize the outside cover of the notebook with words, phrases or pictures from the magazines. It only took about 15 or 20 minutes, but I really got to know a lot about her based on what she chose to put on the cover. We were also able to have a comfortable conversation about what should or shouldn’t go on the notebook, which really broke the ice. During future sessions, she used it as a writing journal; other times we’d use it as scratch paper, and sometimes she used it to to write example problems in case she got stuck when I wasn’t there. The tutor notebook became a really practical tool for my student and personalizing it together helped us both feel more comfortable right from the start.
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 Master of Science in reading. She is happy to help in any way she can to make your tutoring sessions successful!