School’s out: My year as a tutor

Photo credit: Clemson Libraries/Flickr
Photo credit: Clemson Libraries/Flickr

As the school year comes to a close in the next few weeks, I will be finishing my final sessions with the students I’ve been tutoring since last summer. When I went into this gig, it was to explore the idea of teaching, to see if I wanted to go into education in some capacity, and because I’ve always wanted to try tutoring. I walked into the tutoring and test prep center in my neighborhood and cold applied, acknowledging that I had no teaching experience, no experience working directly with kids, and no experience in special education. But I did have a passion for the English language, and for helping students communicate better and succeed in school and in life.

All these months later, I hope that I’ve made an impact on my students’ work, now and in the future. For some, I know I have – the test scores and the grades prove it. And beyond the grades, I think that I’ve been able to expose these kids to new ideas and concepts, empower them to express themselves more confidently and creatively, and to utilize their resources and surroundings to find solutions, not only for their homework, but for some of the bigger questions and challenges they will face as they grow up.

For me it’s been a test in patience, a challenge to be creative (with curriculum and style), an opportunity to learn about new things, a refresher in some of the basics (hello, functions and graphing), and a chance to nerd out on some of my favorite subjects and topics. Browsing NPR.org and The Atlantic for articles for my ESL student to read wasn’t homework for me – it fit right into my daily routine. Rereading Much Ado About Nothing, or The Bell Jar for the first time, or working through the rhetorical and literary devices in prose and poetry are all up my alley, and while my students may not be over the moon about those assignments, I got to be a little excited and I hope some of that rubbed off on them. And even when I was working through middle school math, I got to explore different learning styles and approaches to fundamentals that I hadn’t touched in 20 years, and it gave me a new appreciation for what it’s like to be the student – it helped me to be a better teacher.

As with any job or extracurricular, there were tough moments, too. You’re dealing with parents, juggling schedules, disinterested kids, and sometimes really tough subject matter. And while I won’t be pursuing a new career in education right now, the frustrating moments of this past year have been as enlightening as the satisfactory ones. I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with all of them, and I’m glad I took on the challenge for myself. I look forward to continuing it in the future.

Have you worked as a tutor? What have you learned from the experience?

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Great holiday gift: an education

*This blog and any posts related to the Razoo fundraising widget I’m promoting to raise funds for Girl Up are my own, and not on behalf of my employer. However, the funds raised WILL support that campaign, which I work for.
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It’s that time of year: the Christmas shopping commercials, the inundation of emails asking us to give online or to visit the eStore to purchase holiday gifts from Nonprofit X or Retailer Y. And yes, I’m putting out an ask as well, but hey, it’s what I do – I work in the world of online communications and fundraising. I wrote before about supporting the campaign I work for, Girl Up, through a new online fundraising widget from Razoo, and we’re having a friendly competition between some of the ZooGooders over the next week in the spirit of the holiday giving season.

Donate to Girl Up via Razoo!So, with that in mind, here’s the thing: new fuzzy socks or a DVD are fun stocking stuffers, and it’s nice to watch someone open a new Wii or a beautiful coat, but what about how you feel inside when you give the gift of an education to a girl? What about what the girl feels when she is given the opportunity to attend school, to have a chance at life?

Photo: Girl Up

That’s what thousands of girls in Malawi need – a chance. They need to go to school, they need a health care clinic to visit, they need programs in their communities that provide safe spaces and mentors and life skills. So I’m asking you to forget the trip to Target, skip the Amazon deal, and instead, give a High Five or more to Girl Up – right now.

And then, ask your best friend and your niece and your mom, and your grandma and your uncle, and your teacher, and your neighbor to give as well. Because every $5 can change a girl’s life – and the effect will be much more lasting and significant than socks or a DVD.

Give a High Five right now to Girl Up and change a girl’s life.