My name is Andrew and I serve at an after school program in East Liberty. This is my second year serving with KEYS Service Corps. I’m glad to be back mentoring youth in Pittsburgh!
I have been blessed with a great education throughout grade school and college. In large part I view my time with my youth as an opportunity to share this education with them, which is a task that goes far beyond just sharing knowledge. This task involves teaching them strategies that will empower them to continue to learn confidently in the future, whether I continue to be with them or not.
It seems like most of the kids I tutor just want me to do their work for them. As children, they often don’t understand the importance of doing their own work in order to gain a skill. To some degree they just don’t want to do the work, and try to play off of you to get the answers without working through the steps themselves; in another sense they genuinely need help understanding the concepts. I believe that many of the children I serve need to get a clearer, more consistent idea of how to approach their assignments step by step and, more importantly, need to develop trust in their ability to complete the assignment correctly and trust that they will receive the help they need if they ask for it and wait patiently.
In November, I was having trouble getting through to one elementary aged girl on her math homework; it seemed like she just refused to read the directions and kept getting ahead of herself. So after several attempts of simply telling her to read the instructions, I slowed her down and had her memorize four steps to completing each math problem – read the question, understand any graphs or charts that go along with that question, do your work, and then, only after doing the first three steps, can you write the answer. Later, I made a point of talking to her father at pickup time. He was very appreciative and said he had been telling her the same things.
Now, when I see her doing her homework, she is usually doing it all on her own. I am sure her father has still been reminding her of the lesson she learned. I can see that my instruction made an impact on this child, but I can also see that I am only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to helping her succeed in school.