Question: “I work with a fifth grader and it’s very difficult to get him to do more than one or two math problems during our sessions. He stalls and goofs off and drags his feet so much so that I feel like I am doing the work for him. I’ve tried to motivate him to be more proactive but he doesn’t seem to care about his grades.”
Working with upper grade students can be difficult, especially when it comes to motivating them to work outside of school. One thing that I have found helpful when working with unmotivated students is to give them an academic survey to find out what is truly preventing them from wanting to do work, or as you explained, caring about grades. (See: Sample Math Survey)
The survey should be short in length and include very general statements that your student can answer with “Agree”, “Disagree”, or “I don’t know”. Some examples of statements to include on the survey may be: Math is Boring. I like to do math in my head. I have always disliked math. The great thing about student surveys is that most of the time, students are very honest. Also, surveys provide good information that could help you to prepare more engaging math activities based on the student’s interest. Finally, surveys allow you and your student to have a very honest discussion about math and attitudes toward the subject. In my experience as a classroom teacher and tutor, talking to students about learning can reveal weaknesses and strengths that will ultimately help you when planning work and in forming a closer bond with your student.
One other option is to limit the amount of work you present during a tutoring session. Since you know your student only has the stamina to do 1 or 2 problems, why not limit the session to 1 or 2 math problems, but challenging ones! There are lot of online resources where teachers have made word problems (sometimes called “math story problems”) based on pop culture or certain interests that require a specific math skill to solve. In my classroom, I have also made word problems about specific students in the class. That personalization often increases the level of interest, especially in math.
Ultimately, once a child sees that you are taking an active interest in his/her learning, that child will usually be willing to do any kind of work you present…even math problems! It just takes time to develop the stamina and focus to study. Good luck!
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] schoolonwheels.org or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.
You’re invited to Gear Up For Summer at the Skid Row Learning Center!
Pick up free supplies and books for summer academics and projects
Meet other tutors, mingle, and enjoy light refreshments
Talk to staff and fellow tutors about summer activities and academic tips
At 2:30, we will be raffling Starbucks gift cards to keep you caffeinated over the summer! One lucky tutor will win a 50.00 gift card to Lakeshore Learning to purchase educational games and supplies for their student!
(Free 2-hour parking available on Crocker St and 7th St.; meters on San Pedro.)
– Sahand Pirbadian and Pouye Sedighian. One of the main character traits we help the students learn is teamwork. The wonderful husband and wife team of Sahand and Pouye is the perfect example! Every single Thursday they come to the Learning Center together to tutor whoever needs help. They also join us at the shelter when we take the students to play in the gym. Together they designed and executed an active game to help the kindergarteners learn the alphabet!
Here is what Sahand had to say about their experience, “We love tutoring at School on Wheels because we believe in the importance of education for every student’s future well-being. Coming to School on Wheels is an absolute joy and the highlight of every single week for us.”
Allison Maldonado, Skid Row Learning Center Instructor
Region 1 – East LA
– Destiny Mendez. Destiny is a dedicated tutor and intern! She first joined School on Wheels in September 2015 and has been integral to the support and success of Region 1. She has served as a Tutor Coordinator for three sites, tutoring students at our various group homes and domestic violence shelters. Destiny plans weekly fun and creative activities to engage her students and provides continuing administrative support to staff. I could not be more grateful for her hard work and commitment.
In her own words, “I am honored to have the opportunity to work with such an amazing team. They all have one goal in mind and that is to help kids. When I started with School on Wheels, it exceeded my expectations. Getting the opportunity to work with these kids changed my perspective on life.”
Daisy Arce, Regional Coordinator
Region 2 – South LA
– Rihana Noorzayee. Rihana is a very busy middle school student who finds the time to be a consistent tutor. She is accompanied by her mother Zarin, who often helps during her sessions. Rihana is so dedicated; she has been with the same student since she joined School on Wheels a year ago. She was recognized for her dedication by being awarded the Presidential Service Award for 100 hours of volunteering. I’m grateful to have her and Zarin in this region!
Kenisha Edwards, Regional Coordinator
Region 3 – Westside
– Elin Schwartz. Elin was one of the first tutors that I had the pleasure of speaking with when I first started as Regional Coordinator in Region 3. I am so impressed and thankful for the amount of time and care she puts into her tutoring sessions and her student. She doesn’t just come to help with homework, but she works hard at identifying what exactly her student needs help with and filling in those gaps. Thank you so much, Elin, for your dedication and passion!
Tutoring has always been something I enjoyed. As a child, I worked with neighbor kids; through the years, I have volunteered at Headstart, PATH and Koreh LA. I found School on Wheels again a few years ago, after having tutored back in the 90’s when SOW was first forming. It was exciting to see how much it has grown and really inspiring to be part of it again.
Kyle McDonough, Regional Coordinator
Region 4 – Long Beach, South Bay
– John Park. I wanted to join School on Wheels as a volunteer to make a positive impact in the lives of disadvantaged homeless kids. Being a positive role model and helping students build the foundation for their lives is extremely rewarding. From the supportive coordinators to the families and their children, it has been a wonderful experience. Watching the kids work, improve, and grow, despite great adversity, is nothing less than inspirational.
Louis Mena, Regional Coordinator
Region 6 – Inland Empire
– Cheyne Burton. Cheyne has been an amazing School on Wheels tutor and tutor coordinator (TC) for the past year. Each week Cheyne provides consistency for the students, logs his hours regularly and uses creative techniques to engage the students in learning. Cheyne is not only an outstanding tutor and TC but is also a phenomenal positive role model. As a TC, he goes the extra mile. As a tutor and role model he looks for ways to motivate his students and guide them. Here is what Cheyne has to say about his experience as a tutor:
“Since I began tutoring with School on Wheels in April of 2015, my goal has been to help students with homework, offer guidance with career planning, or just be a friend that they know they can count on. The consistency I can provide students is the most rewarding aspect of tutoring at School on Wheels.”
Thank you for your dedication, you are such an inspiration, Cheyne!
Marisol Farfan, Regional Coordinator
Region 12 – North Orange County
– Gabi Marino. Gabi is an amazing tutor. She brings a lot of creativity and fun into their experience. Ramon seems very excited to see her and stays engaged throughout. I feel so blessed to have tutors like Gabi that have the heart and the passion. Thank you for making a difference Gabi! You are greatly appreciated!!
In her own words, “I have been tutoring with School on Wheels since September 2015; it has been a wonderful experience! I am currently studying to become a middle school math teacher. Tutoring has given me great practice and even more excitement about becoming a teacher.”
Trish Arias, Regional Coordinator
– Fahim Zubair. Fahim’s unwavering dedication to his students and his meticulous attention to detail during his online tutoring sessions are qualities that provide our students with an essential foundation to grow and thrive. A college student at the University of Texas at Austin, Fahim has been an online tutor with us for over a year! We are so thankful to have Fahim on our team.
In his own words:
I cherish my experience with Schools on Wheels. Tutoring Vern and Killiy has been an irreplaceable experience for me. The drive, passion, and grit that Vern and Killy have demonstrated continue to fuel my own drive to achieve and pursue my goals and passions in life! I would like to express my deep appreciation to Schools on Wheels for providing me with the amazing opportunity and for opening my eyes to the realities of homelessness in the lives of our children and youth.
Question: “I’ve been working in a small residential group home for three months where there are usually three-five male teens. The staff don’t seem very encouraging about continuing over the summer, when students don’t have any homework. I mentioned it to the students and they seem to feel the same way, but I know the School on Wheels program suggests working through the summer. I’m not sure what to do. I would like to keep tutoring there and I think the boys could benefit.”
Staff Note: First, contact your regional coordinator and let them know that there is some question about summer tutoring. They will follow up with staff and reaffirm that we tutor over the summer–and why. See below for some great ideas on summer tutoring!
Pa Bayha: Why not take them on an educational trip? This does not necessarily mean a physical field trip. When I work with the gifted program on the Navajo Reservation, I take my vacation pictures and some artifacts I’ve collected, and they love it. I have introduced students to the history of Borneo and the orangutans, The Silk Road, Ethiopia and the Omo Valley, and I am working on a slide tour of the Huntington Library American Art Gallery. Start with a discussion of vacations you have taken or do a Google search for a country they know nothing about. These kids need dreams for the future. If you have never heard of it, why would you want to go there? You can even plan a lesson on where in the world would you like to go and then research what to do, see, and eat there. With 3-5 boys that would be 3-5 lessons. Education is not just about homework, and you can have a lot of fun with your students doing these sorts of creative learning activities.
Jackie Romo: Tutoring in the summer can be tough for any student, but bravo to you for wanting to take the time to enrich your students’ lives! One approach might be to make the summer a ‘lesson study’ on a topic of their choice. For example, during one summer, my student and I did a series of science experiments to study the scientific process. We discovered how scientists make a hypothesis, test it out, and come up with some kind of conclusion. We read several books about scientists, conducted a few experiments, and kept a journal of all the information we liked from various science books. We also made a list of things we still had questions about. By the end of the summer, based on weeks of study, we decided to visit the Discovery Science Center where there was a “Bubblefest” that allowed visitors to do hands-on experiments–our favorite! It was so much fun and more importantly, it was a valuable learning experience. (Remember to follow field trip procedures.)
Depending on your students’ interests, you can focus on a concept based on a content area (math, science, history, literature, art) and study it the entire summer to become “experts.” Near the end of the summer, you, a fellow tutor, and your students can take your expertise and visit a museum to further your learning! It might help your students stay motivated for the summer if they know they’re working toward a museum visit.
About the tutors: 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!
Pat Bayha has been tutoring with School on Wheels for over a year, and also tutors at Tuba City Boarding School on the Navajo Reservation. She is a former teacher with the Montebello Unified School District and has many years of experience teaching in inner city high schools, including advanced placement students and bilingual learners.
Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature? Email askatutor [at] schoolonwheels.org or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.
– Osmond Cruz. In his own words: As I was looking for volunteer opportunities, I stumbled upon School on Wheels. On my first day of tutoring, I didn’t know what to expect because there were so many kids and only a few tutors. However, the kids were very welcoming and excited to have me sit with them. It was so much easier for me as a tutor, knowing the kids were eager to learn. Even though I’m there to teach them, they’ve also taught me patience and how to be a positive role model. I look forward to coming to School On Wheels each week, excited on what new stories the kids will be telling me and what new thing we can learn from one another.
Allison Maldonado, Skid Row Learning Center Instructor
Region 2 – South LA
– Raquel Munoz. Raquel has been with School on Wheels for three year now, and unfortunately, this is her last year. She has been an amazing Tutor Coordinator and tutor.. Raquel has placed dozens of students with great tutors and has tutored over fifty students herself. Raquel will be greatly missed!
In Raquel’s words: Since June 2013 I have volunteered with School on Wheels, thanks to a very persistent friend of mine who insisted that I volunteer. Initially I thought there was absolutely no way that I could fit tutoring into my busy schedule, which included school and work. However, here I am three years later, and so glad that School on Wheels is a part of my life.
As an evolving professional, being a tutor and a Tutor Coordinator has been such an enriching experience. Because of my experiences with School on Wheels, I feel better prepared for this next chapter in my life, teaching English to young children in China.
Kenisha Edwards, Regional Coordinator
Region 3 – Westside
– Group Tutors Bible Tabernacle. This month I would like to highlight some of the tutors that go to our Homework Club night at Bible Tabernacle. Four or five tutors have been going there consistently for about a year now, and are doing a great job with the kids. Whenever I stop by, the kids know all of the tutors by name and are excited each week to come to group tutoring for help with their assignments. Thank you so much for all of your help! I’ve really seen the group of kids grow over the year and tutoring has been a big part of that!
Kyle McDonough, Regional Coordinator
Region 7 – San Fernando Valley
– Devin McKinnon. Devin is a fantastic tutor and Tutor Coordinator! Since Devin started with School on Wheels in September 2015, she has been a strong leader and has helped many students improve their education. She plans fun educational activities for the students in group tutoring and helps coordinate the tutors! I truly appreciate her hard work, dedication to caring for children and positive attitude!
In her own words: I am lucky enough to have found my passion in life and that’s working with children. It’s the greatest thing in the world. Their energy and unique personalities keep a smile on my face all day. I found School On Wheels in an online volunteer search and thought it was such a great program. The students we tutor at the San Fernando Mission are so bright, positive and full of life. It is truly an honor to be able to spend time with them every week.
Brianna Grothe, Regional Coordinator
Region 8 – Ventura County
– Anne Klein. Anne has been a tutor with School on Wheels since March of 2014. For the past two years Anne has been an exceptional tutor, seeking new ways to help and support the students she is working with. We are very grateful to have amazing volunteers such as Anne as part of our organization.
In her own words: I retired from a 25 year teaching career in Miami, Florida. I taught special education at all levels in public schools. The majority of my students were first generation Cuban; so I am quite familiar with the Hispanic community. I moved to Ventura nearly four years ago with the intention of doing volunteer tutoring. I was so happy to discover School on Wheels! I have been with them for many years and have been tutoring Marleth since February 2015. I want to ‘give back’ and my main motivation is my love of kids. Really, really miss them!
Lisette Gaeta, Regional Team Leader
Region 10 – South Orange County
– Ramita Sawhney. In her own words: I’ve always loved working with kids; at a very young age I started babysitting and spent my Sunday mornings working at a church’s childcare program for over six years. Once I graduated from college and started working full-time, I had extra time during the week and decided to volunteer. With my past experience tutoring kids, School on Wheels is the best way for me to give back to the community. I started this past year. It’s so nice to help the children with schoolwork, and to get to know them more personally. It’s rewarding to encourage them to utilize their maximum potential. I’ve found that they are great listeners and are very keen to learn.
Lilian Pahn, Regional Coordinator
– Alyson Gonzalez. Since joining School on Wheels in August of 2015, Alyson has tutored more than ten students online; currently she tutors Nelson on Skid Row and Luis in Compton. Alyson’s warmth, passion, commitment, and preparedness are qualities that have helped her students improve both in their character and their academics. Thank you, Alyson, for your hard work and dedication!
In her own words: Before beginning tutoring with School on Wheels, I assumed that most homeless children did not have the same attitude to learning as their counterparts. Now, after tutoring Nelson and Luis, I see that I am wrong. Nelson and Luis are extremely bright; even though they lack stable environments and are often transient, they are extremely forward-looking and have the most positive outlook on life. They know that they can achieve anything as long as they strive for their goals. I am happy to help them and look forward to continuing to support them as long as I can. As much as I am an inspiration to them, they are also an inspiration to me. I truly believe that, thanks to School on Wheels.
In honor of Volunteer Appreciation Month, a group of our volunteers were awarded with the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Here are a few photos of the tutors who received awards. To see the full list of award recipients click here