Kids Teaching Kids - AHS Student Tutor Center
As the bell rings for the end of the school day, Ashland High students flood the stairways and halls, bound for home. But, wait, why are all these students going into Tammy Anderson’s classroom?
They are headed to the Student Tutoring Center, an after-school program funded by the Ashland Schools Foundation and the Ethan Townsend Memorial Fund (see related article). Every early release "white" day, math teacher Tammy Anderson, six tutors and and students who need homework help meet there to extend learning beyond the regular school day. As sophomore Connor Frol says, “It really helps me with math. I come here every white day.”
Anderson began the Center seven years ago as more and more teachers were finding they were using up their prep period after school to do individual student tutoring. And students found that sometimes they could understand things better if explained – in “kid language” – by a peer instead of a teacher.
So, with the help of ASF’s funding and Anderson’s willingness to provide the time, space and organization, it quickly caught on with students. Now every white day the students – tutors and tutored – crowd in at the final bell, ready and eager to work.
Anderson has been the driving force behind the Center since its inception. She says she loves one-on-one tutoring herself. She finds it “very gratifying to know that kids understand things.” She says, “I just love doing it. It’s precious to me and important to the school community.” She envisions this going on indefinitely, as long as the support keeps coming. It’s obvious that she does this, not for the small stipend she earns, but for her love of teaching.
On the day we visited, there were 49 attendees, a record crowd, ranging from freshmen to AP students. They lined up to sign in, were offered candy by Anderson, and quickly got to work.
Tutor Lee Owens-Oas is surrounded by girls, as it happens, who want him to check their work. (Teachers have found that offering extra points for students who get key homework problems checked and signed before the test has improved scores more than having students wait until after they do poorly on a test to get remedial help.) Anderson reminds the girls not to mob Lee, but he doesn’t seem to mind at all! In fact, he says that he comes in on his scheduled days and sometimes on his days off, too, because he enjoys it so much.
There is a buzz of activity in the room but it is all business, mostly math today. A French language conversation group meets on white day Thursdays in another room. Some students seek help with writing or Spanish conversation or science. Anderson expressed a hope that in the future they could get additional funding to support a writing center next door in the computer lab, which recently added wireless Internet access so students could bring laptops with their work ready for revising and editing.
Anderson keeps things organized by matching up tutors with those who need help. She announces that soon the tutors will be instantly recognizable in their new bright green shirts that have been designed and ordered (and paid for with ASF funds). She is assisted by part-time teacher Dorothy Swain, who says she loves coming in to interact with more students. As she tutors, Swain stresses the process of solving the problem, not just getting the right answer, so the student will be able to solve the next problems independently.
Tutors are hand-picked through an application process, have high grades and recommendations from their teachers, and excel in many areas, including high-level math, at least one second language, and writing. A dozen students are currently employed and are paid with ASF funds.
The Tutoring Center has filled a real need at Ashland High. In September of 2008 ASF donations were low and there was not enough funding available for it to open. When students realized it wasn’t there, parents were calling, asking for it to open (“I can’t help my son with his math anymore – help!”), and tutors were asking when they could start work. So, after an emergency fall fund drive by ASF, and a large kick-off donation by the Ashland Kiwanis Club, the Center finally opened on Nov. 1, and has been going strong ever since. This year it has been particularly needed, as class sizes have grown to unprecedented levels, making it harder for teachers to help everyone during the regular period. Sickness has also increased this year, so the Center has provided a service to those who have been absent from class and missed the teacher’s explanation.
A wide range of students come to the Tutoring Center. Kez Korth, a freshman, comes in “to get help with problems that are too hard” for him. He comes in most white days and likes getting help from a student tutor. Alex Bowland, an Algebra II Honors student, comes in most white days, except when he is taking classes at the university. He says, “It’s helped me a lot to do better on tests. Mrs. Anderson was my favorite teacher last year for Geometry Honors, and I like coming in here to work.”
Buses run on the same schedule every day, so on white days bus students will find they have a nearly two-hour wait to be picked up. Likewise, many students who participate in sports are waiting around on campus until their 4pm practice begins. The Tutor Center is a safe and helpful environment in which students can find a friendly tutor, some academic support, a willing teacher, and even a piece of candy. With the support of ASF, the AHS Student Tutoring Center should be good to go for many years to come.