TTC's virtual tutoring builds youth Assets and offers opportunities to serve others.
Relationships are the oxygen of human development and the bedrock upon which youth Assets are built. Assets -- opportunities, skills, values, connection and attitudes --are essential building blocks that form the scaffolding for healthy development. Assets provide the critical foundation youth need to make healthy choices and grow into responsible, caring adults. And the more Assets youth have, the stronger this foundation will be! Tri-Town Council creates and supports programs that offer opportunities to youth to build Assets, relationships, and connections within the community in myriad ways.
One such opportunity is Tri-Town Council’s Virtual Tutoring Program. The program was created to support concerns families had about pandemic learning gaps due to the challenges wrought by coronavirus. Matching trained Tri-Town high school aged tutors with youth in the Tri-Town, the program provides academic support and enrichment. After the successful launching of the program in summer 2020 serving about 40 youth, TTC continued to offer the program in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. And since its launch, the program has served over 80 youth. Pairs meet once a week at a mutually convenient time over Zoom or another virtual platform for 45 minutes- 1 hour. The one-on-one matches allow sessions to be tailored to the tutee’s needs and help the pairs build a connection over time. While the tutoring sessions are free of charge, the tutors receive community service hours.
Building connections and offering youth meaningful opportunities to serve others are critical Assets in typical times and especially now when social distancing and remote interactions have become the norm. When asked why she applied to be a tutor in the program, Masco sophomore Malia Robinson said she found that the program was more personal and interactive in comparison to other extracurriculars offered on a virtual platform. The program “gives you a connection academically and socially, which has been very valuable especially during the pandemic.” Masco junior Jeff Cooper mentioned that he had previous experience working with youth in recreational settings and wanted to gain experience working with youth in academic settings as well. Masco senior Carolyn Blum had been serving as an in-person middle school math tutor which was cut short due to the pandemic. She was glad to have the opportunity to continue tutoring through the Virtual Tutoring Program.
Harnessing the virtual platform had its challenges and required innovation, creativity and thoughtful planning and problem solving. Carolyn worked through those challenges and feels she has been able to establish an effective structure for her tutoring sessions. She used the tutor resources provided by Tri-Town Council and her own resources. Kahoot and the Zoom annotation feature are great tools for helping her tutee stay engaged as well as accommodating to her tutee’s visual learning style. Zoom’s whiteboard feature has helped Jeff make his tutoring sessions more interactive and has allowed his tutee to learn by doing. Malia utilized online learning games such as Quizlet to help her tutee stay motivated and engaged.
The program has impacted both tutors and tutees in different ways. For Malia, Jeff, and Carolyn, their favorite part about the program is seeing their tutee’s progress and knowing they were a part of that. Getting to know their tutees on a personal level and building a connection with them is another highlight. Carolyn remarked that she enjoys seeing her tutee “starting to direct the session and be an engaged learner.” The benefits are mutual for both the tutors and the participants. Tutee participant Trevor mentioned that because of the Virtual Tutoring Program, he has become “more productive and improved in [his] writing.” Trevor feels he has enriched his vocabulary, learned to add more detail to his writing, and now writes better introductions and conclusions.
Malia, Jeff, and Carolyn recently reflected on the valuable lessons they’ve learned through the program. Malia’s “perception of tutoring and teaching in general has changed.” She learned that a large component of tutoring is taking a step back and listening to what her tutee needs rather than assuming what works for him. Jeff shared that being a tutor requires a lot of trial and error on both his part and his tutee’s part. He recognizes that sometimes he needs to try explaining a concept in different ways until it makes sense to his tutee. Jeff has found that his tutee learns best by trying a problem on his own first and Jeff recognizes the importance of providing guidance rather than giving away the answer. Carolyn has improved her communication skills and has learned to better articulate herself.
Malia, Jeff, and Carolyn feel that their experiences in the Virtual Tutoring Program will help them with future endeavors especially since they all anticipate entering a career that involves collaboration with other people. The Assets they’ve built centering around empowerment, positive values, boundaries and expectations, and constructive use of time, and the skills they’ve strengthened -- patience, communication, and leadership -- as tutors will serve them well and help them achieve their goals.
Tri-Town Council is grateful to all of our virtual tutoring program participants and tutors and Masco partner Nick Ely for his support of the program.