July 30, 2013

Tennis and tutoring, anyone?

East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring tutor Jazmin Harper with seventh-grader Tatiana Love. Photo by Katie Brigham.

Summary: The nonprofit East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring this month marks 25 years of using tennis to build skills, persistence and opportunity to help low-income kids beat the odds. The program serves nearly 300 students with the involvement of 135 Stanford University students and 18 full and part-time staff.

The following story is by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly Staff, originally published 5/25/13

Hidden from view beneath the bleachers of Stanford University’s Taube Tennis Center is a cavernous, oddly shaped space, which, on any given day, is a beehive of activity. More than 100 students — mostly from East Palo Alto but representing 43 different elementary, middle and high schools — show up there after school for tutoring, dinner and tennis.

Nurtured by Stanford’s longtime men’s tennis coach Dick Gould and many others, the nonprofit East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring this month marks 25 years of using tennis to build skills, persistence and opportunity to help low-income kids beat the odds.

“I was one of those kids not wanting to do my homework, not wanting to listen to any authority figure, not having the mom or dad to help me out,” said Ebony Isaac, a participant of the organization from seventh grade until her graduation from Eastside College Preparatory School in 2008. Isaac, a 2012 psychology graduate of Menlo College, returned to the program recently as a paid intern. Now she tries to get through to kids she views as versions of her earlier self.

“If I see a kid sitting alone, waiting for a tutor I’ll sit and ask them how they’re doing that day and they’ll gradually open up,” Isaac said. “I try to let them know that even if they’re not doing that great in school, if they do ‘xyz’ they’ll be able to flourish. “It’s just little things. They’ll ask me about college life and I give honest answers. I think it really helps them to see the possibilities.”

To read more click here.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,Community

July 27, 2013

Being friendly: Building an effective tutor-student relationship

by Nalini Lasiewicz, Crossroads of Learning

Academic advisers at the Canadian Student Leadership Association (CSLA) note that students are more motivated to learn — and learn more — when they like the teacher.  By practicing techniques of friendliness, learning specialists can be most effective in their roles, whether as a peer tutor, a volunteer mentor or a manager of academic learning center, writing center, or tutorial service. There is, however, a difference between being friendly and trying to be a friend.  Tutors need not confuse the two.

When working with students to improve their comprehension and understanding, CSLA recommends these friendly and respectful behaviors:

  • Act as an equal — Avoid appearing superior or snobbish.
  • Be dynamic — Students appreciate someone who is active and enthusiastic.
  • Create a learning environment — Choose a location and a situation that makes learning fun, interesting and entertaining.
  • Be comfortable — Be at ease with yourself.
  • Concede some control — Allow the student to lead and pursue knowledge.
  • Show interest — Be interested in what they have to say and remember their likes, hobbies and interests.
  • Be optimistic — Convey a positive outlook. This will be contagious.

The attitude of friendliness is a step above basic etiquette.  Experienced tutors should already have a commitment to average social norms such as being on time to all your tutoring sessions, planning the sessions so that the student’s time is respected, dressing appropriately and attending to one’s own personal cleanliness. The “Tutoring Foundations” curriculum from Crossroads of Learning also stresses that tutors should refrain from using obscene, insulting or slang language.  Another rule of etiquette for tutors is to avoid embarrassing or belittling their students. When problems arise, try to speak in a diplomatic way to avoid hurt feelings.

Sometimes the line between being friendly — and being friends — can feel a bit blurry.  For example, once a level of trust in the relationship has been built, students may ask their tutor personal questions, or make inappropriate comments.  In order to avoid this,  a very brief greeting period at the beginning of the session to catch up a bit is recommended, being sure to keep it lighthearted or school related, and then getting back to work, staying on task in a friendly and professional manner!

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Portions of this article are excerpts from “Being Friendly”, reprinted with permission from the Canadian Student Leadership Association. Other portions are from “Tutoring Foundations”, a training curriculum created by Crossroads of Learning © 2013 and developed with the National Tutoring Association (NTA) and Fielding Graduate University. Crossroads of Learning professional development for tutors, trainers or academic coaches is available via on-line courses or a train-the-trainer/workbook program. All courses and materials articulate with NTA Certification requirements. For more information call Nalini Lasiewicz at 818.249.9692 ext 2 or click here to request information.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,Associations,Crossroads of Learning,Peer-Tutoring,Small Private Practices,Training/Education,Tutoring Practices

July 24, 2013

Graduating seniors move to preserve tutoring initiative

Story summary:  Mechanical engineering seniors Joshua Sidin and Andrew Maddox search for new talent to continue the MavSTEM Tutor Program which recruits UTA students from the science, technology, engineering and math fields to tutor younger students making it understandable and fun earlier in their education.

Originally published 5/10/13 by Johnathan Silver in the Shorthorn

Though mechanical engineering seniors Joshua Sidin and Andrew Maddox are graduating Sunday, the two have unfinished business. The two need successors to continue their tutorial program at Lamar High School in Arlington. They created the initiative, MavSTEM Tutor Program, to recruit UTA students from the science, technology, engineering and math fields to tutor younger students. The goal is to elicit the students’ interest in the fields by making it understandable and fun earlier in their education, they said. “We’re explaining the why behind everything as well as showing them the operations, and they absolutely love that,” Maddox said. “It’s almost like a totally alien concept to them – being taught the why behind the math and science they’re learning.”

It’s also a foreign concept for many of these students, who also are considered at-risk youth, to think of life beyond high school, Sidin said. So tutors sit with the students to learn more about their interests, and by addressing it, the students return more eager to learn, he added. “What makes this child interested? What gets them going?” Sidin said. “For us, it’s clearly engineering. That’s why we’re here. But it’s not engineering for everybody. So, finding out what that is and then molding a direction – they completely come up with on their own, but we guide them. They had no prior exposure to anything like that.”

Such is an experience the two hope draws other UTA students in the science, technology, engineering and math fields to want to tutor. Currently, they are looking for tutors going into the next academic year.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,Community

July 18, 2013

Private tutoring program helps Fox Cities students with dyslexia

by Megan Nicolai, Post-Crescent staff writer, originally published on 3/19/13

Brenda Biese tutors a Highlands Elementary School third-grader as part of a dyslexia program Friday in Appleton. The program, Dyslexia Reading Connection, is one of only a few of its kind in the Fox Cities. Sharon Cekada/The Post-Crescent

It went on for years. Appleton resident Brenda Biese knew her daughter was trying in school, but she kept falling further behind her classmates. Before she was told she had dyslexia, school was a constant struggle for Biese’s daughter. The mother-daughter team would work to get one grade up to par, only to see a grade in another subject fall. But then a family friend mentioned a program that might help — Dyslexia Reading Connection.

Despite the exhaustion mother and daughter felt after trying almost every educational program on the market, they decided to take advantage of the free consultation. After two years in the program, the amount of confidence her daughter has gained is staggering, and her love of learning has returned, Biese said. “If you could see her two years ago, and if you could see her today, you’d be amazed,” Biese said.

Dyslexia Reading Connection is one of the few dyslexia-specific tutoring programs offered to Fox Cities children, and one of the most organized. Currently in its sixth year of operation, it tutors 55 students, including two adult learners, said Nancy Menn, director of the program. Every student is tutored privately. The program charges $480 a quarter, with tutors meeting with clients two times per week. It takes about three or four years to complete the program’s 10 steps, Menn said.

People with dyslexia have issues with memorizing rules of the English language that most people take for granted. The Dyslexia Reading Connection, or DRC, uses the Barton teaching system to coach students on scores of tricks that can determine how to spell or read unfamiliar words.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,Community,Tutoring Practices


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