It is sad to say, but next Tuesday will be my last day of tutoring for the semester. This week, the children started making cards for all of the tutors, to tell us how thankful they were for all of our help and support throughout the year. I know it sounds silly, but these cards really meant a lot to me. A few of my students, who I have been working very closely with for a few months now, wrote about how much they loved me and would never forget me. Of course, this almost brought me to tears, because they will never know how special they are to me and it feels so good to know that I am special to them too. Earlier in the week, I watched a TedTalk in one of my classes entitled “Every kid needs a champion” (video below). In her TedTalk, Rita Pierson spoke about the importance of a teacher-student relationship in promoting academic success, and I could not help but relate this to what I have experienced this semester while tutoring at a local community center.
The center that I tutor for has mostly low-income, minority students who are dealing with a lot of financial and family issues. However, despite their backgrounds or their socioeconomic statues, these are some of the most caring and talented children I have ever met. I went into this program, not only hoping to help students succeed, but also to grow in my own abilities and learn from them, and I must say, I have learned a great deal from them. In order to foster a close relationship, I at first focused my attention on learning about their many talents and passions. One of my students loves football and basketball, and is possibly a future athlete. Another one of my students is a wonderful artist and can draw an amazing cartoon from scratch off of the top of her head. Another one of my students is bilingual and is helping her parents learn English. The list of talents goes on and on, and I have found that it is really true that good teachers will learn just as much from their students as their students learn from them.
The reason why I am so fascinated by their talents, is because I have found that by learning about these students and what they love, I can use their passions to promote their learning. For instance, I work in Spanish with my bilingual student for math, but in English for her reading. We are making such progress in both areas, and you can tell that she is so excited about math now, because it is an opportunity for her to speak Spanish. With my student who loves football and basketball, we can play games to promote his learning, or I promise him a basketball game once he finishes his homework, to keep him focused and on task. But aside from the academic benefits, I have found that if you form a close relationship with your students, they not only care more about their work, they feel more comfortable with you. They open up to you about their problems, and you become an avenue for them to address their troubles and disadvantages within their current school system.
This relates directly to what Rita Pierson was talking about. Being there for these children is so important, because every child needs an adult who is going to be there for them and stand up for them no matter what. Most of the children I am working with have at least one parent who is able to be there for them, but there is always one who does not. There is always one, who needs a teacher or counselor to stand up for them and help them cope with their daily stress that directly influences education. If I have learned anything through my tutoring program, I have learned how to be a companion to my students, and I hope that I will carry that with me into my future career; That way I can be a champion to a child who is still searching for one.