At 826michigan, we begin our volunteer training with a free write, where we ask volunteers to reflect and write for four minutes about a memorable experience that they had with learning as a young person. This memory could be positive, negative, or somewhere in between. We’ve led countless training sessions over the years, and what seems to stand out from this freewrite is the many adults who have influenced our volunteers’ younger selves. These are teachers who modeled what it looks like to be patient, to make big mistakes and fix them, and to connect as humans.
When we think about those qualities in our now-virtual programming, our volunteer tutors Jordan Chung and Noah Fisher really exemplify those positive role models that we hope our students will write about one day.
As the virtual tutoring program was wrapping up in mid-June, Noah and Jordan were paired together to work with an elementary student on some math homework. They very quickly built a strong and respectful relationship with the student, and leveraged that relationship when the long division homework got especially tricky. Noah and Jordan were persistent, kind, and creative–they even used Zoom’s whiteboard feature to show the steps to solving a problem, which allowed them to “write” alongside the student. When that session went well, both Noah and Jordan reached out to 826 to share that they’d be willing to continue working with this student if the student was interested. (At 826michigan, we can *occasionally* arrange individualized tutoring for our current students in the tutoring “off season” if there’s a good tutor-student fit, and we have staff available to oversee the tutoring.)
Now, every week, Noah and Jordan meet together with this student for Friday afternoon math practice. Many of us have realized in this mostly-virtual season that Zoom dynamics are not quite the same as real-life learning and socializing. Somehow, though, Noah and Jordan work so well together (they just met this spring!), balancing talking time so that no one person is doing all of the talking. It’s a tricky balancing act to make space and take space in this way, but Noah and Jordan pull it off flawlessly.
And even when the group reaches a roadblock, or the trickiest division problem, Noah and Jordan are patient, encouraging, and a constant source of positivity. Although any student may feel frustrated when they try a math problem and don’t understand, Noah and Jordan effectively work together to create an environment where making mistakes is OK and normal. They bounce between strategies and ways to explain math problems, ultimately rooted in the deep respect for our students as learners and humans.
Jordan and Noah, we are SO grateful for your support this school year and summer as we transitioned to virtual programs!