Volunteer Spotlight

Meet Miriam

miriam bishop pictureMiriam Bishop serves as a tutor with the FLOC Neighborhood Tutoring Program. In this role, she tutors a student named Alex on Tuesday evenings in reading. She has been a tutor at FLOC since March of 2011. Miriam loves the documented success rates and hearing what a difference FLOC has made in students’ lives.

Miriam is an attorney with Willkie Farr & Gallagher (WF&G). FLOC has been a principal grantee of the WF&G Foundation for many years. Miriam first heard about FLOC through the WF&G Foundation newsletter that is circulated within the firm. Miriam went to the FLOC annual fund-raising luncheon that year and was very impressed by the presentation and the work that FLOC does. After attending the luncheon, she began to explore ways to volunteer.

This year Miriam worked with a 4th grade student named Alex. Alex is very intelligent, very active, and very energetic. Alex brings a lot of enthusiasm with him to tutoring, though he sometimes has difficulty staying focused and on task. Miriam works on several things with Alex, including vocabulary, reading and sight words.

Miriam loves to see that children are really learning. She particularly enjoys that look of happiness that comes over their faces when they suddenly “get” a new idea or concept.

Miriam has participated in various FLOC activities held at WF&G’s offices. She has also been to graduation parties and the Outdoor Education Center. In addition to her work as an attorney and her time at FLOC, Miriam is an avid garden. She had flower gardens, vegetable gardens, fruit trees and bushes, and indoor plants, such as orchids, Christmas cacti, and ferns.

Thanks, Miriam, for your years of service to For Love of Children!

(Vanessa Hanible is the Recruitment and Outreach Associate.)

Neighborhood Tutoring Program, News, Student Spotlight, Volunteer Spotlight

WNDC’s Dynamic Duo

Jasmin and her tutor Ashley Oakes have been breaking records in our WNDC testing room this year!

WNDC Pair

Jasmin is a student in our WNDC – Tuesday night reading program and in the Scholars program. She has passed many tests in the Wilson curriculum and has added new words to her vocabulary such as frolic, compliance, occurrence, and more.

Jasmin began this year in Unit 2, Lesson 1 in the Wilson curriculum and will end at the beginning of Unit 4, Lesson 1. She has shown a lot of dedication to improving her reading skills and works very well with her tutor. This is Jasmin’s fourth year with FLOC, and she says it has been the best one yet.

Ashley has also enjoyed her time at FLOC and credits a former colleague for recommending the program to her. As the oldest sibling from a large family, Ashley often draws from experiences of tutoring/mentoring her siblings while working with Jasmin. They both are excited to return to FLOC next year and continue to work together!

(Felise Ortiz is a site coordinator for the Neighborhood Tutoring Program, including in the Tuesday night program at the Woman’s National Democratic Club.)

Neighborhood Tutoring Program, News

Math at Jubilee: NTP is growing!

Last week, a year’s worth of hard work and planning came to fruition. The Neighborhood Tutoring Program launched a new site: Thursday night Math at Jubilee Housing Services. This is NTP’s ninth tutoring program and fifth off-site program. The program is led by Felise Ortiz, an AmeriCorps member who was previously a site coordinator for the Thursday night Math program at FLOC. While this program started small, it could grow to as many as 15 pairs.

jubilee 2

The Thursday night Math program is consistently one of the most popular programs for students and tutors, often being the first to fill up. Having an additional Math program at the same time and within a block of the FLOC offices allows us to serve even more students. We anticipate that this will become another popular program.

Jubilee Housing Services has been a partner of FLOC for several years, working together towards the same goal of providing all DC students with quality out-of-school-time services. We are grateful for the hard work of the Jubilee staff, specifically Katherine Spinney (Director of Youth Services), which allowed us to expand our reach within the Adams Morgan community.

(Lauren Phipps is the NTP Curriculum Coordinator.)

Neighborhood Tutoring Program, News, Staff Perspectives

The Language of Mathematics

Bianca NTP

As anyone that works with students will tell you, it’s not always about what you teach them, but the things that they teach you. This spring, FLOC staff has been working hard enrolling and placing more students and tutors into our programs for the spring semester.

One of our new students, Bianca, attends a French immersion school. While reading through her application and gathering some pertinent information to include for her tutor, I noted her school on her student placement. In Washington DC, I am very used to seeing bilingual schools that our students attend, but this was a first for me.

During her first tutoring session, while getting to know each other, she and her tutor discussed her school. Bianca, one of our new 7th graders, has been at this school since first grade, and every subject is taught in French. When they transitioned into the curriculum, her tutor, Ben, wanted to see how well she knew unit 5, which is multiplication and division facts.

Example of a long division exercise using the French style.
Example of a long division exercise using the French style.

During the session, he asked her to switch roles with him and explain him the concept of division. After a little pause, she explained that she can only describe it in French. Bianca then illustrated the box for the long division symbol, which looks completely different from the way most schools teach it. In case you are wondering, the word division in French is répartition. Math may be a concept that is universal but, as her tutor realized, some of the explanations can still be lost in translation.

(Catherine Brenner is an NTP Site Coordinator at FLOC).

Neighborhood Tutoring Program, News, Tutor Perspectives

Maintaining Your Cool

Renee-Lauren photo

Today I had to prove that I knew about Drake and, in fact, I was ridiculously pleased to announce that I owned his first two albums. Last week I proudly shared that 2 Chainz would be performing back in my home country. The looks of awe on my student’s face was priceless. Score, big time. Major cool points. I’ve rarely been more grateful for friends who are DJs.

This is how I maintain my cool with my FLOC student, an eager and very laid back young black man. As we weave through our Saturday afternoon reading lessons it helps to keep the conversation going by being able to drop a reference or two about the things that matter in his non-FLOC world. Sometimes I use those references to teach a concept but more often than not, we have little conversations to connect as we work on tapping and learn the difference between digraphs and welded sounds.  It’s important to be able to relate. It’s important to connect.

I am thrilled when a student passes a test or sounds out and successfully pronounces a tricky new word while reading. But I feel a special thrill when my student and I are able to have a little chit chat about pop culture or their interests. That kind of exchange is not only beneficial on the first day as we get to know our students, but it is useful throughout the yearlong program. As tutors I think it’s important to be active about connecting – engaging – with our students.

As I mentioned before, being able to discuss popular Rap and Hip-Hop artists helps to smooth over conversation gaps…but there’s more involved.  Active engagement is the foundation for building trust, and trust is an important ingredient for successful tutoring sessions. Let’s face it, attending tutoring after school or on a weekend is big time commitment for our students. The least we could do is show an interest in them as much as we are interested in ensuring that they get the help they need to excel at reading and math. Let your students know that they can trust you to help them with the reading or math hurdles they’re facing.  Connect.

Don’t worry if music (or sports or video games ) isn’t your thing. I’ve paid attention enough to have a passing conversation on everything from the Redskins to the Vampire Diaries to Taylor Swift (yes, even Taylor). Plus, you may be surprised at the common ground you find by talking to your student about random things.

There are also tools built into the FLOC program to help build a rapport with your student.  I’ve learned that many cool points are  earned by allowing frequent games of trashketball. When I began at FLOC I struggled with what trashketball is and how on earth to integrate it into lessons. But over time I’ve realized that it’s a valuable teaching tool. It’s as simple as a small basket and tight wad of paper being tossed every time your student gets something correct as you review phonics during the Wilson quick drill or words for  Wordly Wise. Usually games don’t go beyond 10 minutes but I’ve found them a remarkable low-stress way to check a student’s knowledge. Students (boys in particular) love to take those shots.

Tutoring at FLOC is as much about helping students as it is about enjoying the tremendous opportunity of volunteering. We’re at FLOC to teach, but we’re there to learn as well. Seize the opportunity…and look cool while doing it.

(Renée-Lauren Ellis is a tutor in the Saturday Afternoon Reading program).