Our Homework Help program went virtual when New York City closed its schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This school year, students were learning remotely and in the classroom and our Homework Help teachers navigated a variety of devices and methods of homework delivery. They had a secret weapon, though: our high school volunteers.
Our high school volunteers this year attend several independent schools, Brearley, Trevor Day, and Ethical Culture Fieldston, and they attended sessions with our Homework Help students while navigating their own school work. They worked in partnership with our teachers, and sometimes independently on an assignment with a child. They brought their perspectives and their sense of fun to the sessions, and their contributions were invaluable.
Here are some of their thoughts about the process, and you can listen to them in the slideshow:
Were there some advantages to working remotely?
- Tutoring online was easier for scheduling, because there was no travel time to factor in.
- We had a really good experience doing sight words flashcards and other exercises — these can sometimes feel redundant or tedious when done in person, but somehow being virtual made it more enjoyable and a fun but educational break from homework!
- I think virtual homework help provides the opportunity to move to more efficient and accessible tutoring.
- Having the ability to ‘share screen,’ and easily pull up a diagram or type something on the virtual whiteboard has been really useful and not something that’s available during in-person tutoring.
If you volunteered in person previously, how was working virtually different?
- I couldn’t bounce between kids like I normally do, and using a whiteboard for visuals was harder.
- Working virtually was definitely more challenging at times than being in person, but I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to work with these students!
- Working virtually was a highlight of each week and has been something I always looked forward to. I think one thing in particular that was challenging was keeping the child focused — sometimes they would be very eager to go to another room, show something they had just found, etc. and it could be a bit difficult to stay on track.
What were some fun moments?
- It was so heartwarming to see the students get creative with their online situation. For example, Isis would always change her zoom name to something funny like “pancakes” or “biscuit” (the name of her guinea pig).
- Sometimes, Jasmia will move her mouth like she’s talking but not actually say anything, so that it looks like she’s muted. It’s pretty convincing!
- We usually leave the last few minutes of every session to draw, play a game, do a pet show and tell, or a similar fun activity. These moments are always the highlight of my session…
One volunteer related a complex challenge that took teamwork to unravel:
Last week, I entered the zoom room, briefly looked at a math problem on Destiny’s homework and said to Simone, “I’m really embarrassed, but to be completely honest, I’m slightly confused about this problem.” Simone, of course, was immediately encouraging, and although we were both a little confused, we started trying to figure it out together. Then, Destiny’s Dad arrived and mentioned that he had started working on the problem the previous night and was struggling to explain it to Destiny as well. So, we all worked together, and the whole time, Destiny was so adorable and encouraging, and we were all so excited when we figured out the problem. It was both really funny (because who knew a third grade math problem could be so difficult?), but also really heartwarming, because it was a really sweet moment of teamwork, and it was so delightful to see how excited we all (especially Destiny) were when we finished the problem.
Another found the highlight of her time was the success of her students:
My favorite part of the experience is getting to see the student’s progress. Even just on a week by week basis, witnessing a student go from struggling with a certain letter or math problem, and slowly watching them improve and progress is so rewarding and wonderful.
Watch and listen to our volunteers at work. Please note that we were not able to show all of our volunteers so the screenshots in the video are not often the person speaking.
For perspectives from our teachers on remote Homework Help, take a look at here.