During For Love of Children’s Summer Academy, there was a lot of progress and a lot of fun. The Neighborhood Tutoring Program (NTP) gave 62 students the tools to avoid the summer learning slide by partnering them up with their very own volunteer tutors at our Adams Morgan location. It can be difficult to really explain just how important, enjoyable, and even challenging the experience can be. To give you more insight we interviewed a tutoring duo: Our Board Member Paul and his daughter Samantha spent their summer with FLOC 1st grader Adrian and FLOC 2nd grader Jenna. Their experiences were a little different, but both stories are perfect illustrations of what FLOC is all about.
How were your first days tutoring with your student?
Paul For me the first day was really challenging, really tough. So it definitely took a while to figure out my student. [Adrian] was really high energy; it was very very hard getting him focused. If you were around some of those days you would see a kid running down the hall and me chasing him and looking for him. It was definitely a very challenging experience until we got to know each other and I was able to figure out tools and techniques to keep him focused. The last two sessions or so we had, I feel like, extended productive sessions.
Samantha From the start, Jenna made it clear she was eager to learn math. I remember on the first day I asked her, “So, are you excited to learn some math?” fully expecting a typical “no”. I was prepared to give an explanation of why math is actually interesting and important to learn, but I didn’t need to because she immediately responded with, “Ya! My favorite subject is math!” She astounded me by already knowing topics 2 grade levels above her!
How do you feel your student has progressed?
Paul I believe that he has learned a lot this summer. We worked on Unit 1 (a section of the curriculum comprised of lessons surrounding the identification and ordering of numbers) the whole time but there were several concepts there that he hadn’t learned yet in school, like place values and rounding, so he was really learning new concepts. They just took the test yesterday and scored 18 out of 21 so he definitely was grasping some of the materials and you could see with two or three weeks of reinforcement that it was slowly sort of coming to him. His mom said that he actually enjoys coming to the program and she was actually quite surprised at how well he scored.
Samantha Jenna came in already knowing math topics from Unit 4 (consisting of lessons focused on regrouping and subtraction), even though she was in 2nd grade. The placement test put her at Unit 2.3, so we flew by lessons. The biggest thing we accomplished was strategies for testing and for doing math with a time constraint, and having confidence in her work. Other than that, she knew every topic we covered.
What is your favorite memory with your student?
Paul Adrian loves magic. We incorporated that into tutoring. If we got through a half hour of work then we’d practice a magic trick then at the end of the class he would be able to try it on some kids and tutors, and my daughter. I think that made it both fun and gave him the idea that he can focus and then have some fun afterwards.
I also introduced a card game, 21, to all the kids I worked with. It’s a counting math game that all of them seem to like and they all asked for the instructions so they could go home and play. I like the idea that the game I learned to add and subtract with as a kid, I might have been able to pass that on to a couple of kids and maybe they are playing that over the summer and improving their math skills.
Samantha We had a lot of great memories. One that comes to mind was right after she did not pass her test because she only answered 32 problems in 3 minutes. She told me she had been really nervous and I taught her some new techniques for quickness. She wanted me to give her a sheet of 100 problems to see how many she really could do in 3 minutes, and she got 61 problems! I’m honestly not sure who was more surprised, but we couldn’t stop laughing for a long time at how fast she had the ability to be.
What did you like best about program?
Paul One of the great features of this experience was that I got to work as a substitute tutor for four other kids throughout the summer so I really got to work with different people, different ages, and different units. Most of those were high school students.
Comparing [FLOC] to my experiences in school where everyone is sitting in a desk, [at FLOC] you’re running around, you’re talking ball, you’re really trying to make the learning into a game and recognizing that these kids have already had a long day either in school or camp. The learning needs to be in a fun environment and an environment where you are moving around, you can stand, you can walk, and throw things around. I really liked sometimes walking around and seeing people playing bowling and basketball.
Samantha I really like how this program is designed to benefit everyone involved. The parents get 2 free hours and the satisfaction of knowing their child is in good hands; the student gets to learn and retain knowledge for future schooling, as well as associate math with a positive and fun environment; and the tutor gets to use his/her experience to teach someone in a way that is specifically tailored to the one student they instruct.
What was the hardest or most challenging part of program?
Paul I had the realization that you need to put your best game forward because the kids can read you quickly: whether you have authority, whether you know what you are talking about, and whether you are prepared. Definitely that it is a more challenging thing; you don’t just go in there being excellent at it. Programmatically, I found the lessons to be a little bit difficult to prepare, after 8 or 7 weeks I don’t think I mastered filling out the lesson plan correctly. The last three weeks I took my student upstairs to get him out of all of the distractions with other kids and that seemed to make a huge difference, getting him into a quieter environment.
Samantha Jenna was wonderful and did not make anything challenging. For me, the hardest part of the program was trying to fill out the lesson plans.
What is your biggest takeaway from Summer Academy?
Paul The few times where I had the ability to observe my surroundings there, I just saw lots of examples of really good tutoring. I saw people explaining things like the trick of the 9 times tables with your fingers. That was really impressive, to see the tutors and how many of them were just really good at what they do. I thought the staff was there when I needed them and able to produce a worksheet really quickly. I thought that the staff was really effective at jumping in there and helping and that type of thing. I thought the whole thing together works really well with the volunteers and staff amidst the chaos of lots of people.
Samantha My biggest takeaway is the knowledge that although a lot of DC students are going to FLOC, many more need to be helped. It amazes me how much more effective one-on-one tutoring for 2 hours with breaks can be compared to an impersonal and disruptive classroom for 7 hours a day. Jenna has taught me that if something is taught the right way, a student can develop a passion for it that will make learning way more enjoyable and easier. If a student has a bad experience with a subject (especially early on), it can be almost impossible for him/her to have the motivation to try and do well later on. It is extremely important to make sure children have a good foundation and perspective in math and reading from an early age, because if they don’t, learning anything past that point will be much more difficult. FLOC does a great job with trying to ensure students stay on track and have a positive experience with whatever they learn over the summer.
We at FLOC would like to say thank you to Paul and Samantha, and all of our Summer Academy tutors, for all the work they did this summer with our FLOC students. It’s because of tutors like them and students like Jenna and Adrian that our Neighborhood Tutoring Program is so highly recognized as making a difference for DC students. Please help us create more experiences like these. Invest in FLOC and make a tax-deductible contribution that will enable us to serve as many students as possible.