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June 28, 2013 / HandsOnCorps

Recap…Don’t forget to Study! …Mhari Goldstein


            Many of the programs we offer match wonderful volunteers with students in need of academic help. As the Academic Success VISTA with HandsOn Suburban Chicago (HOSC) I am charged with having a positive impact on student’s academic achievement by building programs and matching caring adults to various tutoring task. As a former tutor you never forget the feelings of personal success when the student finally grasps the concept of fractions and how to manipulate them. They would bring tests and report cards so you could see their achievements and know that they were accomplishing set goals. It’s important that all involved feel a sense of accomplishment.

 As such, my role is to secure supportive after-school tutoring/homework help in multiple schools in two adjoining districts. Students and tutors mostly focus on homework help during sessions. Because of this it is often harder to see the direct influence that a volunteer might be having on a student’s success. A rise in student grades may be impacted by a number of factors both in-school and after-school. As such it can often be discouraging to tutors, who do not have access to student grades, to be unsure if they are making a direct and positive impact.

To that end our volunteer training is on going and interactive. We remind tutors that academic success is more than just grades and test results. We train tutors to work on study skills, something that is often not taught in schools, with their students and to find alternative ways to gauge improvement. Our tutors take time at the beginning of each session to go through the student’s folders and recycle old papers that they do not need anymore, make sure they have all their tools prior to sessionsand finally ensure that all distractions, phones specifically are stored away until completion.Our tutors are trained on the PQRST (preview, question, read, summary, and test) method; a method that prioritizes information in a way that correlates with how they will be utilizing that information on a test or paper. Together after subject matter is probed, flashcards are created along with other visuals are cued up like,  around prioritizing assignments then highlight them green, yellow, and red to ensure that time is taken to complete and return for grading purposes.

By focusing on variables that you can directly influence, you will be able to get a better return on your impact. Students who worked on study skills with their mentors began attending the program ready to work. Their volunteers noticed (slowly but surely) that students began bringing in their materials without needing to be reminded, became less disruptive to others, and began to complete their homework within the allotted amount of time. The volunteers felt more confident in themselves and had a stronger relationship with their students. Once the students and volunteers felt more successful in their roles, the program itself became more successful. It was an honor to be a part of such an endeavor over the 2012-2013 service year.

Mhari Goldstein

AmeriCorps VISTA

HandsOn Suburban Chicago (HOSC)

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