Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tutoring is fun and educational!

It has been a VERY LONG TIME since my last post.  WHY?  I interviewed and was hired for a more permanent job.

I am a TUTOR! 

This is the greatest job!  I love it. Of course, being my usual self, I do “10 times as much” preparation for each lesson/student as is required. That’s just the way I am… I told the principal and lead teacher when they interviewed me that I was the best prospect because they would get “110% or more” work from me.

I really enjoy working with students with whom I can forge a longer term relationship. I was substituting at repetitive schools and getting to know the classes, teachers, and students at each school. That was fun and engaging.  That wasn’t a bad thing, but it is nice to know the night before WHERE you will be at WHAT TIME in the morning!

My schedule is becoming engraved in my brain now. I started on December 2nd.  Of course there was a Winter Break for a little over 2 weeks just barely 2 weeks into the position, so tomorrow AM will be back to a “real” schedule. 

WHY am I telling everyone who reads my blog about this? 

1) Any great ideas that you may have about how to tutor, what materials are great to use, and any hints about what NOT to do would be greatly appreciated. 

One of the people in my PLN (Angela Maiers) has a mantra (actually she calls the entirety a manifesto, I believe) that says,

Sharing What You Know Matters.

Together We're Smarter

… So, if you have any advice or comments, I am open to them all.

AND 2) I want to reflect on what I am doing, what I want to do, and wonder about about what more can I do. (This will be in future posts.)

First, I will tell you something about my situation and how it all is working at my school. I know tutoring can be such an individual job.  Every location, type of tutor, and every individual person in the job will do things differently.

At my school the tutors are hired to help improve students’ learning especially in the areas of Reading and Writing. That does not mean we don’t delve into math and other subjects as well. Our school has a high concentration of English as a Second Language Learners as well. Some of them are migrant workers’ children.  Actually, most of those migrant families have left since the cold weather has shut down the jobs. Most of the ESL students’ first language is Spanish.  I took Spanish in high school and college, but haven’t really had a chance to continue to use it.  Of course it is rusty, but I am enjoying little insertions of my meager Spanish knowledge whenever I can.  I think the students appreciate it.

We have, throughout the building according to a specific schedule for each of the grade levels, a program we call SMART Groups.

This is an acronym for Small Group Meeting of Academic Reading Team.  At certain times of the day an entire grade level (1-5) is involved with SMART Groups.  All grade level teachers, teacher assistants, ESL teachers, and tutors are working with students from a specific grade  level. Depending on the grade level, students may be reading different materials or they might all be reading a certain text or book. The students have been grouped throughout the entire grade level according to abilities. This allows each teacher/tutor to focus on the skills that need to be learned by this particular group of students. Of course, there are specific goals and Essential Questions that need to be learned/answered by all students. Some students will be learning them in a different manner.

The lessons are planned by various teachers in each grade level depending on how that grade level differentiates the learning.  There are approximately 16 different adults working with a unique group of students from that grade level.  Usually several groups are meeting together in each classroom in various corners while some groups are meeting in teacher work rooms and special rooms available throughout the school.  The groups usually include between five and eight students in each.  These groupings allow for a great deal of individual attention and specific help for each ability level.

These groups are scheduled every week on Monday – Thursday. Fridays are a bit different. Also the tutors are not scheduled to work on certain days; i.e., like the last 2 days before Christmas Break there were NO SMART Groups. It was known in advance that the students would be doing unique holiday specific activities and it allowed the classroom teachers much more flexibility in their schedules. Also funding is limited so administration wants to get the most bang for their buck with these tutors. Of course days where there is no student attendance, but teacher workdays are also “freed up ” for the tutors.

That gets you up to speed, I hope, in how my days are going.

Monday through Thursday, I have a specific schedule as do all other “special” teachers and assistants. For example, first thing in the morning after attendance and lunch count, First Grade “MEETS.” I trek to the first grade hallway and coral my group. We go off to the  closest teacher workroom to have our meeting.  Generally we meet for approximately 35-45 minutes. At the end of our time together, I deliver the students back to their classrooms. Then I go on to the next grade level. This process continues throughout the day. Interspersed midday due to the lunch schedule, the middle hour or so is devoted to specific students in individual or very small groups for particular instruction.  My schedule allows me about 40 minutes with a duo of 4th grade ESL students and then about 30 minutes with a 3rd grade ESL student.  Then after the lunch schedule slows down, back to the grade level SMART Groups.

All materials are available for each grade level. Students will bring texts, or reading books, work books, worksheets, etc. with them that have been provided by their classroom teachers or the teacher will have an teacher assistant who prepares materials for the entire grade level as appropriate.

I have personally taken on the assignment of making up the vocabulary cards for the 4th grade.

Each tutor is generally associated with a particular grade level for additional help. In this method each tutor gets to know the grade level teachers and the grade level students better and can easily assist in many projects and skills daily, but especially this integration happens on Fridays.

On every Friday, each tutor assigned to a specific grade level works throughout the classes of that grade level as the teachers have requested or need assistance with varying tasks and groups of children. Sometimes it is allowing a ESL student to read aloud to an English Speaking adult to practice fluency (especially when there is no English Speaking adult in the home.)  At this point, on Fridays especially, the subject matter is not always related to reading and writing. It can spill over to all subject areas. 

Since my position started on December 2, it has not been a regular schedule with the excitement of the holidays and the winter break from school. I have gotten to know my students in the grade level classrooms fairly well. The students that I work with in midday and I also have forged great relationships.  The relationships and work on Fridays with the grade level as a whole are taking longer to forge, but those students who have worked with me usually remember and smile at me when they see me in the hallways. 

On Fridays, I am mostly working with the 2nd grade classes and teachers.  I understand that the 2nd grade level has more students and especially more ESL students.  Thus there is a need for an extra tutor in this area. There is a tutor assigned to work solely with the Kindergarten classes (and they do not have SMART Groups.) I am not sure how her schedule works. Then there are 5 other tutors each assigned to a grade level (1-5). AND then there is Mrs.. V – that’s me!

Hopefully, I have adequately explained the general routine and schedule.  In my next post, I will continue with the “meat” of the  tutoring - what do I get to teach and more about my students.  Of course, I cannot name any student specifically, but I can tell you positive traits and great positive happenings.

I love my new job. I love my students.  I love working with all the teachers and professional staff at my new school. They are becoming a great school family.

Oops…I forgot to tell the story of my new “roommate.”  I’ll keep you in suspense and tell you at the start of the next post.

1 comment:

Kim Riley said...

I am starting my masters in integrating technology in the classroom and discovered your blog. This sounds like an awesome job!! Usually when you think of tutoring I think of after school. But the fact that your school offers the opportunity to have this during the school day is great, especially for ESL learners!