Category Archives: Tutors for All Blog: One Student at a Time

Tutors for All believes that the achievement gap will be closed in the trenches, one student at a time. This blog builds on our experience running individualized education programs for the last 8 years in district, charter, and parochial schools.

How Do We Write Curriculum?

This month, we decided to discuss a bit about the very core of our programs – our curriculum. When designing the curriculum for a given program, we focus on specific objectives, usually within subject areas. At the same time, we work to include a bit of fun and interest-learning in our materials!

Here’s some information about our process as told by Sahar, our Program and Marketing Coordinator:

Based on your experience so far, could you give me a brief overview of how T4A writes curriculum?

I can definitely speak to how we’ve written the curriculum for the 10th Grade MCAS tutorial and for the 9th Grade Humanities tutorial; those are the programs and subjects where Lena and I have had the most influence in shaping curriculum.

All of the Tutors for All curriculum packets—which consist of a student packet (where the student does their own work) and a tutor packet (which contains an answer key)—are accompanied by a lesson plan, which tutors either fill out on their own or have filled out for them beforehand. They are also part of a larger unit, which consists of anywhere between three and five lessons. For instance, the 10th Grade ELA curriculum is broken down into four major units—Poetry, Expository Nonfiction, Narrative, and Drama & Mythology—which correspond to the four major genres of literature that appear on the ELA MCAS test, and which students work on for about three or four weeks each.

Structurally speaking, besides our standard Do Now and Exit Ticket practices, we incorporate an Intro to New Material, Guided Practice questions and Independent Practice questions for the 10th grade curriculum. This allows students to have an even balance of instruction and independent work, and gradually give them more agency and mastery over the material as the session goes on. We based this structure on the worksheets provided by our JumpMath curriculum–the one we use for math tutorial in students between grades 5 and 9.

For 9th Grade Humanities, the structure is a little different. Each lesson comprises two parts: Independent Reading, where students read from a book of their choosing and choose a couple of questions from a list to write reader responses, and Direct Instruction, where students directly hone their skills in word recognition, vocabulary-building, and their ability to think comprehensively and critically about a given text.

How has this year’s curriculum changed from last year? Do you tailor it each semester depending on current students’ needs?

Rather than tailoring the entire curriculum each semester based on current student needs, we updated the 10th grade curriculum instead to match the types of questions they’re more likely to see on their upcoming MCAS test. Before Spring 2017, 10th grade students were working with a huge list of questions that reached back as early as the 2000s. (Actually, some of the questions from the MCAS I took, in 2007, were there!)  We also gave more structure to the lessons based on feedback we directly fielded from our Lead Tutors, so rather than having a long packet of questions, we decided to structure our packets into three major parts.

Thanks to the work I’ve done with Codman Academy’s 9th Grade Team, I’ve been able to match the texts that students work with in Direct Instruction to the units that they’re studying in their Humanities class. While our first unit is simply getting students used to tutorial and loving reading (again), our other three units work with the history of the Haitian Revolution, South African Apartheid, and Colonialism in Puerto Rico, with an overall theme of Justice vs. Injustice. So it’s not so much that we’ve tailored each lesson to individual student need in these cases, but more that we want to give them a comprehensive understanding of the things they need to know both for their classes and for the tests they’ll need to take in order to graduate.

Both Lin Manuel-Miranda and Trevor Noah were mentioned as important parts of the curriculum. Could you tell me about how you’ve integrated them and their work into the program?

Yes!! This is my favorite. As I mentioned earlier, two of the major topics our students are working with in Humanities tutorial are South African Apartheid and Colonialism in Puerto Rico. Based on some previous work and current suggestions that Mark put on the table, we were able to incorporate Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime into our Apartheid unit, as well as a couple of scenes from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights and the song “Almost Like Praying” into our Puerto Rico unit. I think the students really enjoy getting to have music in their lessons (which is almost a staple for anything Puerto Rican), and also getting a little surprised to read such honest and contemporary accounts of the materials they’re studying.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I highly doubt either of them is going to read this, but on the off chance that they do—I just wanted to personally thank Lin-Manuel and Trevor for expressing their work, their ideas, and their personalities in a way that is artful and worth using in the classroom. It’s particularly fun for me as someone who is both mixed-race and Puerto Rican to get to see some of the issues I’ve grappled with in our lessons, and to give students the space to think about them, and relate to them, as real, lived experiences. Lena and I have been having a blast coming up with questions for this material, but we wouldn’t be able to do it if they hadn’t written it in the first place.

TSNE’s Effective Supervision Workshop

As many of you know, Third Sector New England is the non-profit organization that supports T4A’s human resources, financial planning, and administrative duties. We’ve been partnered with them for nearly 10 years! They’ve helped us grow in so many ways, including through workshops and events.

In honor of TSNE’s Effective Supervision Workshop held yesterday, we’d like to share a bit about what we’ve gained from attending (through the eyes of Sahar, our Program and Marketing Manager):

Could you tell me a bit about the workshop itself?

The Effective Supervision workshop was led by TSNE MissionWorks speakers Lyn Freundlich and Joanne Horgan, and featured a balance of presentation and activities, such as worksheets, workplace scenarios, and roleplay and observation. We learned about the ways we can interact with the employees we supervise, based on our own behaviors, openness in our work environment, and management styles, and the ways in which our employees want to be supervised. What was most surprising to me was the number of people who attended who weren’t part of TSNE MissionWorks or the Nonprofit Center. I think that just goes to show what kind of reach the organization has, and the kind of influence it’s had, and has the potential to have, on other organizations.

Most if not all of the core Tutors for All staff have attended the workshop in the past, and I was more than happy to join them!

What were some of the main takeaways from last years’ ES Workshop, and how have you been applying them in tutorial?

A lot of the main takeaways from the workshop were similar to the practices we already employ within the organization, which I’d think is in no small part due to the fact that our core staff has participated in it before. A weekly meeting with an agenda for each person you supervise was certainly something I noticed, and something I’ve participated in ever since I started working with T4A a few years ago. Needless to say, I think it’s something I’m starting to expect of other organizations and workplaces as well.

Still, I have to say I learned a lot about the different levels of supervision, depending on how much free rein your employee would prefer, and where I fall on that spectrum. It definitely made it easier for me to identify where the people I supervise (both tutors and associates/coordinators) fall as well, and gave me the tools I needed to adapt my supervision style accordingly. With a new tutor, for instance, I may watch very closely and give them every step on how to set up and lesson plan for the day; with an associate I’ve worked with for a long time, though, I may just give them an assignment I know they’re familiar with, and act as a sounding board or a facilitator throughout the process.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience?

My favorite part of the workshop was definitely the way the tables were set up; each table was covered in large drawing paper, and featured legos, pipe cleaners, markers, crayons, etc. Lyn and Joanne encouraged us to use them if we were the type of people who needed something to do with our hands (like craft or doodle) while we listened, which also discouraged us from using our phones for the entirety of the day. As someone who tends to fidget for a multitude of reasons, this was incredibly helpful for me, and I was actually more productive while doodling and playing with a fidget spinner than I would have been if I’d been expected to just sit there and watch Powerpoints all day.

High Quality Oversight: a Look Into Our Tutor Recruitment Process

To wrap up recruitment for this semester, we’d like to share the ins and outs of our tutor search, interview, and hiring procedures. If you’re thinking about working with us, don’t worry – we’re still accepting applications!

Why is this so important, anyway? A well-designed recruitment and evaluation process is a key contributor to highly effective tutorial! More specifically, it falls within high quality oversight.

Before the beginning of each semester, we begin our recruitment campaigns. These primarily go out via emails directly to students and alums, past tutors, educators/education professionals, and friends. Additionally, social media allows us to connect with potential tutors who may have found us first. We also utilize student employment services and portals at local institutions, and attend collegiate job fairs.

With all this going on in the background, one of the most powerful recruitment agents is word of mouth. Tutors who’ve had memorable experiences working with us tell their friends and partake in our referral program. Not to mention, our staff members are really enthusiastic about spreading the word to anyone who may be interested!

Next, we review any applications we received and make note of candidates who seem like a good fit. We’ll contact selected applicants and schedule them for an interview.

When it comes to the interview process, there are usually one of two ways that staff members will carry it out:

  • One is to provide an informational presentation that details the big picture (such as the T4A mission, history, and results), and program protocols, such as lesson planning, tutor responsibilities, and ways to track student progress
  • Alternatively, staff may treat the hiring process like a traditional interview, asking questions about prospective tutors’ previous experience, study habits, and time management.

In either case, we get a good sense of prospective tutors’ dedication to the job and to our expectations of them, and use our best judgment to make a final decision. We also make sure to have our tutors fill out a CORI form that serves as a background check, decide on a program at which to serve during the interview, and pass on our final decision to the Recruitment Team.

From there, the Recruitment Team emails out a Tutor Information Sheet for the tutors’ desired program(s), which is how our Program Managers get in contact with tutors to set them up for the training and orientation sessions that occur the week before program begins.

And, that’s it! We believe that ensuring potential tutors commitment to their roles as mentors leads to greater tutor-student progress in the long run and helps foster meaningful connections. Here’s to a fantastic start of the semester!

February 2018 Tutor/Student(s) Spotlight: Luis, Veronica, and Pallav!

This month, our Tutor Student(s) Spotlight features tutor Pallav and Luis and Veronica, two high school students in our Codman Program! These three have learned so much about multiplying and about themselves. We recently had a chance to ask them about their experiences at tutorial:Pallav (Tutor)

What have you learned from your students in tutorial?

They effort they put day in and day out for every packet that I give is something that I personally lack.

What do you like most about tutorial?

The thing I love most about tutorial is my 10th grade students. The effort, the dedication makes me want to teach them more.

Have your students ever done anything creative or really funny? What was it?

Students have always been cooperative and I never had to face any backlash with them.

What else would you like people to know about your students?

The students initially didn’t want to sit in the tutorial, but they really stepped up once they realized it could help them. Veronica, in fact, got a 90% on her first LTA.

Luis and Veronica (Students)

What did you think when you first met your tutor? How did you feel?

Luis: When I first met him, I didn’t want to be in tutorial. But, once I started to do my work, he became really supportive. It feels good to have someone who wants to help me.

Veronica: [I thought] it wasn’t necessary. I didn’t want to be there.

What is one thing you like about your tutor?

Luis: He’s willing to help me understand the question and be a good support system when it comes down to math.

Veronica: There are easier steps to solve math problems.

Tell me at least one thing your tutor has taught you.

Luis: Not to give up on myself.

Veronica: [He] taught me how to solve GCF or LCF in an easier way.

Would you recommend tutorial to any of your friends?

Luis: Yes.

Veronica: Yes – it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

Tutor Student(s) Spotlight: Paul, Jaylan, and Jaila!

This month, our second Tutor Student(s) Spotlight features Paul from MCPHS and Jaylan and Jaila, two 6th grade students from the Tobin School Program! These three have made so much progress with multiplying and dividing this semester that we decided to ask them about their experiences so far: 

Paul (Tutor)

What have you learned from your students in tutorial?

Jaylan and Jaila have taught me different ways to do multiplication, ways I have never tried before.

What do you like most about tutorial?

I like learning about my students – from little hobbies they do to what they want to do in the future.

Have your students ever done anything creative or really funny? What was it?

Jaila once drew a graphic of her name on a whiteboard, it was really good! Jaylan showed me he can write his name in script.

What else would you like people to know about your students?

Jaila is a great writer, she is able to learn early quickly once she has something down. Jaylan is also a hard worker, and he has made great progress since the beginning.

I wouldn’t have been able to do so much this semester if Jaylan and Jaila weren’t such great students/people.

Jaylan and Jaila (Students)

What did you think when you first met your tutor? How did you feel? 

Jaylan: I was surprised and happy that I had a tutor.

Jaila: The first thing I thought about my tutor is, “I know he is going to be a good tutor.”

What is one thing you like about your tutor?

Jaylan: He is always positive and understandable.

Jaila: What I like about my tutor is [that] he is patient with us. And, he gives me a lot of help with what I need to learn.

Tell me at least one thing your tutor has taught you.

Jaylan: How to turn 3/6 to a decimal. He also [taught] me how to divide better.

Jaila: He has taught me how to do long division. He taught me a way I never knew how to do, and he also taught me division because I used to not know how to do it.

Would you recommend tutorial to any of your friends? 

Jaylan: Yes – all because he is such a good tutor.

Jaila: Yes, because the tutors here are really good with tutoring.


Tutor Student Spotlight: Shem and Frantzsen!

This month, our first Tutor Student Spotlight features Shem from Northeastern University and Frantzen from the MGH Youth Scholars Program! These two have learned so much from one another this semester that we decided to chat with them about their experiences so far: 

Shem (Tutor)

What have you learned from your student in tutorial?

Working with Frantzsen has taught me about the importance of communication, attentiveness, and dedication from both myself as a tutor and my student as a Scholar. Throughout various sessions, each one of these core concepts has demonstrated its impact in fostering an effective tutoring environment. Communication is a two-way street that took time to develop, but now allows us to share any thought processes and confusions that we might encounter during a particular exercise. I’ve also seen how attentiveness and dedication from both me and Frantzsen can lead to higher productivity and a greater motivation to dissect the material together.

What do you like most about tutorial?

One of my favorite things about tutoring is that it is a refreshing place away from the hustle and stress that university can sometimes bring. Being able to directly observe both short-term and long-term improvements in Frantzsen’s mathematical, analytical, and observational skills with reviews, lessons, and exams reminds me of the time and effort (both in the past and now) that I take to grasp a concept. When I see the lightbulb turn on in his head after explaining a problem to him a certain way, it is amazing to see a reaction of satisfaction and understanding – something that I can definitely sympathize with.

Has your student ever done anything creative or really funny? What was it?

There was a problem in the Show What You Know (SWYK) exams which was really simple (from Frantzsen’s perspective), so he quickly answered it and got it it wrong. It was a subtraction problem (something like 321-83) or similar to that. When I notified that he got it wrong after I finished grading his exam, he was in shock since he saw how easy it was compared to the other questions he got correct. I gave him another chance to correct it, but he couldn’t find what was wrong so I directed his eyes to the minus sign and he laughed. For some reason, he saw a plus sign both when doing the problem and when correcting it and was stupefied that he managed to get such a simple problem wrong.

What else would you like people to know about your student?

Frantzsen is not only dedicated and motivated at each session, but he holds amazing potential for learning with his desire to always learn. In our first tutorial session, I had Frantzsen complete a “Growth Mindset” quiz to test if he had a fixed or growth mindset and he essentially answered every question with a growth mindset point of view – that knowledge isn’t fixed but rather dynamic. Although sometimes quiet, he doesn’t shy away whenever approached with a new concept or a challenge. He is always willing to work on whatever exercise I decide for the day and he really has shown tremendous improvement that I think will only grow even more in the future.

Franzsen (Student)

What did you think when you first met your tutor? How did you feel? 

When I first met my tutor, I thought he was awesome and we got to know each other quickly.

What is one thing you like about your tutor?

One thing I like about my tutor is how we can relate on many things like forms of entertainment.

Tell me at least one thing your tutor has taught you.

One thing I remember my tutor teaching me is a shortcut when multiplying large numbers…the way he [showed me] is by first putting the bigger number and [then] start multiplying the bigger number by each place value of the smaller one.

Would you recommend tutorial to any of your friends? 

Yes I would because, even if you get everything the tutor went over, the tutor can help with whatever work you’re struggling with at school. Also, this program is a great use of time to get better at any [academically] related thing you want to improve on.

Staff Introductions: Our Associates

This week, Tutors for All would like you to meet our associates! Some of the youngest members of our team, these three work in different aspects to help us run efficiently and expand our impact. Get to know them:

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Corey: I am a Special Projects Associate with the organization. From day to day the job is usually full of surprises, mainly because the tasks I do vary regularly. I’m originally from Vermont, so living in Boston has been quite an experience! Right now I am in my second year at Northeastern University, studying Civil Engineering. My time as an intern with my high school’s athletic director really shaped my view on how important intricacies are to making things work both internally and externally. I draw parallels between that experience and the work I am doing now.

Lena: My name is Lena Umar and I am currently the Curriculum Associate for Tutors for All. I was born in Pakistan and migrated to the United States at the age of two and have been here ever since! I initially started with T4A as a tutor in the summer of 2016 at Codman Academy teaching math. Along with being the CA for this wonderful organization, I am attending Simmons College pursuing my BA in Public Health. I am in my final year and will be graduating in the spring! In addition, I am working as a clinical research intern at Joslin Diabetes researching a new drug to be put on the market. In my free time, I love to cook and bake pastries, read, watch movies and go hiking.

Jessica: My name is Jessica Chan I’m the Marketing Associate for T4A. I manage and post our social media accounts, create our marketing/newsletter emails, manage/produce website content, and help out with any communications tasks. I’m happy to say that this is my second year working with T4A as Marketing Associate! I’m a local from Foxboro, MA and am currently in my second year at Northeastern University studying Finance with a minor in journalism. I also work as a video production assistant for the Northeastern Athletics Department, with the ultimate goal of learning more about sideline reporting. My interests include listening to and creating music, watching sports, traveling, and volunteering!

What drew you to Tutors for All?

Corey: I wasn’t very familiar with Tutors for All before working here, but in doing research into the organization I found myself intrigued by the astounding results that have come because of the tutoring done at each program. After seeing that, I knew Tutors for All was a place I would be glad to work at.

Lena: Prior to joining Tutors for All, I was a tutor at the high school I attended. For a long time, I have loved teaching and mentoring students and when I saw the position open at T4A I knew I had to join!

Jessica: When searching for a work-study job my freshman year of college, I knew I wanted to do something that made an impact. Luckily, I came across T4A’s listing on my school’s student employment site and immediately jumped on it! I was so impressed by the organizations mission and results, and I had an interest in teaching/education and marketing/communications, so T4A was the perfect match.

What is the most rewarding part about working for T4A? What have you learned so far?

Corey: It’s very rewarding knowing that the work I am doing either leads to the programs being run more seamlessly, or alleviates the burden for other employees. I’ve learned a lot about how an organization has to be strong at its core in order for it to function on a wider scale, and Tutors for All is a shining example of that.

Lena: Watching a student grow overtime has been the most rewarding experience for me. To see them gain confidence in areas of improvement was such a joy to watch. In my time at T4A I have learned that patience is key when working with students. Not everyone learns at the same pace so it’s important to find a balance when working with multiple students!

Jessica: For me, there are actually two most rewarding parts of working for T4A. The first is being able to interact directly with our followers, partners, and friends. The community we have supporting us is amazing, and it’s been a wonderful experience to be on the front line of communication with such an active, tight-knit group. Secondly, being able to work with students and see their progress allows me to see the direct impact of our efforts – it’s fascinating! I’ve learned tons this year about nonprofit marketing.

What are you most looking forward to in your work with T4A in 2017-2018?

Corey: I am looking forward to becoming more involved and familiar with the planning and preparation that goes into running a tutoring program, and developing my skills with the technology that is used on a daily basis. Beyond that, learning more about the history of the organization is something I am looking forward to.

Lena: I look forward to building new relationships with my students and enhancing their growth and development. I also look forward to being their mentor and provide much guidance to them as I can as an educator.

Jessica: In the short term, I’m looking forward to getting the word out about our End of Year Appeal. The numbers we saw from Giving Tuesday alone were really encouraging, so I’m super excited to see what happens the rest of the year. Long term, I’m looking forward to getting back into tutoring and becoming more skilled at communications and marketing in the nonprofit sector!

What has been your most memorable T4A experience so far?

Corey: I recall being asked to carry the desserts to my first staff meeting, and being allowed first selection among all the employees of what I wanted. That was a very generous gesture by the staff who for the most part I did not know at that point.

Lena: My most memorable moment was when a student of mine wanted to solve questions with me on the board even after they finished their assigned packet. I felt so proud because this was a student who never wanted to attend tutorial and put in the work. However, overtime they showed how capable they were of learning the challenging material and wanted to further their knowledge in areas they struggled with. It was rewarding to see how much this student had grown over time.

Jessica: My most memorable T4A experience so far happened recently, when I checked on our donations for Giving Tuesday. I’d been pushing out messages via email and social media, but I didn’t know what to expect. After seeing that our donations had increased nearly 5x in such a short amount of time (basically overnight!), I felt so grateful for not only the outpouring of support we received, but also for the T4A team that worked so hard to get the appeal up and running.

What are your personal goals for the future?

Corey: My goals are to continue to pursue my education, and improve upon become a more well-rounded student. Working here has been a great way for me to learn skills that can be taken with me to use in in my own education.

Lena: In the future, I want to do help disadvantaged communities (both domestic and international) get better access to health care!

Jessica: Ultimately, my goals are to find stability through graduation and work, but also to make are that I leave time to be creative and serve those who may not have had the same opportunities I’ve had. Basically, I’m constantly working toward balance!

Is there anything else you’d like to include?

Corey: The staff has been very friendly and welcoming, not to mention helpful in answering any questions I have had. Great group of people!

Meet Our Coordinators: Kyle, Rachel, and Aaron!

This semester at Tutors for All has been busy as usual, but luckily we’ve had the support of outstanding new coordinators! All former tutors, these three have returned to T4A to help us continue our mission in new capacities. They recently had the chance to share a little bit about themselves and discuss what they’ve taken away so far:

From left: Kyle Bejnerowicz, Rachel Hemstock, Aaron Hume

Tell us about yourself.

Kyle: I am an opera singer! I have been a musician ever since I can remember. I have a bachelor of music in vocal performance from New England Conservatory, here in Boston. I have been lucky enough to travel to Europe several times to perform in operas in counties like Germany and Austria. Tutors For All grew my interest in education so much that I am now a master in education student at Northeastern; this is something I would have never guessed I would be interested in only a few years ago. As I study at Northeastern, I am a full-time student at New England Conservatory as a master of music candidate! BUSY!!!

Rachel: I am working as the Development Coordinator. In August, I completed my B.S. degree in Business Administration and Economics from Northeastern University. I am currently pursuing my M.S. in Finance from Northeastern. I’ve previously served with T4A as tutor and program coordinator. My professional experience includes working as a business analyst, financial analyst, and most recently in consulting. During my time as an undergrad, I was the Vice President of Philanthropy for my student organization where I developed all of our fundraising and service programming events.

Aaron: I am the Data and Technology Coordinator with Tutors for All, which means I administrate the website, I collect and analyze tutor/student statistics, and keep our technology running smoothly for the rest of our staff. I grew up just over the river in Cambridge, and after moving to New York for college – getting my B.A. in Math and Psychology at Columbia – I came back to my hometown to stay.

What drew you to Tutors for All?

Kyle: I was a huge math geek in high school. I remember I went to math-summer camp and took Algebra II the summer between sophomore and junior year. I eventually made the choice to go to a music conservatory; this meant I wouldn’t take another math class or science class ever again in my college studies. Tutors For All was a great chance for me to use my math-brain and to give share my enthusiasm about this kind of work with the students!

Rachel: When I first started with Tutors for All, I noticed the directimpact that our work was making. Iloved working with students to help them realize their full potential and knew that coming back to the organization in a different capacity would allow me to help the organization excel in a different way. Tutors for All is an organization that makes a big impact in lives of our own City’s youth, and I’m excited to be a part of that impact.

Aaron: I’ve worked with Tutors for All over the summer term in college, and I loved the experience of making such close connections with my students. More recently, I was looking for a bridge to gain experience in statistics before going on to grad school, and the opportunity to come back to T4A fell into my lap. I realized what a great chance this was with a wonderful organization, so I didn’t think twice.

What is the most rewarding part about working for T4A? What have you learned so far?

Kyle: The most rewarding part is watching the students grow more mature and become better behaved and motivated. Students always ask about college and traveling. I love seeing the students aspire to be something and aspire to go somewhere. All the students can do whatever they set their minds to; it is most rewarding when I see them want something and then achieve it.

Rachel: The most rewarding part about working with T4A is the ability to make a direct impact on the organization. So far, I’ve learned that there is so much more to learn about development!

Aaron: Tutoring with T4A, the most rewarding thing was working with a student on something they have given up on understanding, and finally reaching a moment of excitement when they realize they can do it. Now working in the data arena, the reward is in finding small tweaks to how we collect and use our data that should make the work we do stronger in the long term.

What are you most looking forward to in your work with T4A in 2017?

Kyle: My master of education degree has a concentration in higher education administration. I am looking forward to continue to learn more, from Mark and all the other T4A staff, how running an educational business like this one works. I am becoming more and more organized each day and each project I undertake.

Rachel: I’m most excited to host our fundraising events in the Spring. It will give me a chance to meet and connect with everyone who’s been a part of helping T4A be successful in making a difference in our student’s lives!

Aaron: I’m looking forward to further developing my website management skill. With such a small team at T4A, there may not be anyone to fill in my lack of experience with web design, so I’m excited to figure out firsthand how to keep things running smoothly on the back end!

What has been your most memorable T4A experience so far?

Kyle: One time at Codman Academy, we were short tutors for a tutorial session. I had to tutor 6 students by myself. I felt like I had ran a marathon after. My whole body was sore and my brain was fried. It amazed me how a great teacher will go out there 180 times a year and expertly conduct a new lesson plan each day.

Rachel: Recently, I attended a talk on the current state of STEM education. As the panelists spoke about the inequality faced by Boston’s students, I immediately felt so proud and humbled to be a part of an organization that has not only recognized this injustice for years, but has also been working effortlessly to give all of our kids equal opportunity and bridge the achievement gap.

Aaron: Most memorable for me has been running interviews with new prospective tutors, and seeing the same excitement to make a difference for young people that I felt in the same position. I’ve gotten to share my story and hear theirs, and feel like a part of a much larger cycle of both teaching and learning collaboratively.

What are your personal goals for the future?

Kyle: As a musician, my overall-main goal for the future is to be in the higher-administration of a music school. I wish to continue to perform music, continue to write music and study it; while working with other musical-educators to foster a strong musical community at a school like my current home, NEC.

Rachel: On the far horizon, my personal goal is to eventually go back to school and study public policy, so that I can find ways to be a part of long lasting change in our communities.

Aaron: My goals are to go to a graduate school for mathematics or statistics in the area, and then apply a greater statistical skillset to working for nonprofits in the future.

Any other thoughts?

Kyle: Tutors For All is a great family, and has helped me find what my true interests are! For such a small organization, we leave a HUGE impact!

Aaron: I’m just excited to be a member of the team and to work with my colleagues in supporting the academic and professional growth of students and tutors alike.

Fall Preview: Codman Academy

Fall tutorial is well under way, and this week we’d like to share with you a bit about one of our programs: Codman Academy.

We are so looking forward to the results of this program that we want to take you on the journey with us! Read about how this program exemplifies some of our elements of effective tutorial and check back at the end of the semester for an update.

Program History

Codman and Tutors for all have been partnered since 2008 (almost 10 years!), primarily running tutorial for 9th and 10th graders in preparation for the 10th grade MCAS exam.

We have also offered math tutorial to the 5th and 6th grade in years past. Before Fall 2017, Codman tutorial at the high school used to take place on Saturdays (10th grade in the morning, 9th grade in the afternoon).

This Semester

Unlike in the past, T4A runs weekday and in-school programming at Codman this semester, supporting 41 students total in the 9th and 10th grade through two separate sessions! Here are some concrete ways you can see our elements of effective tutorial being put into place: 

High Quality Oversight

  •  Our Lead Tutor for Monday/Wednesday is Axel Garcia, an MIT graduate student who also helps to coordinate our administrative duties over the course of the week. 
  •  Christina Schempf, a New England Conservatory graduate student, is our Lead Tutor for Tuesday/Thursday.

Professionalization of Tutors 

  • Tutorial itself runs for an hour, with the remaining time devoted to lesson planning/reflection, individual development, and tutor assistance in Codman classrooms.
  • All tutors have undergone extensive training and are expected to continually perfect their practice. We are invested in developing tutors as thoughtful and skilled educators who feel confident in their ability to deliver content, and we strive to offer them professional support as well as opportunities to give feedback.

1:1 or 1:2 Ratios

  • We have 17 tutors serving at Codman, most of whom tutor twice a week, keeping the tutor-student ratio low!

Balanced Collaboration and Autonomy 

  • Our Curriculum Associate, Lena Umar, is currently updating the 10th Grade MCAS curriculum this emester. These new packets focus primarily on updating the passages and problems to match the MCAS framework, as well as giving the lesson a structure that allows students to gradually progress from instruction to independent work.
  • The humanities curriculum is being created/updated by Sahar Hakim, Codman’s Program Manager. Half the lesson is devoted to Independent Reading and responses, and the other half of the lesson is Direct Instruction. This allows students to take what they’ve learned at school and bring it to tutorial (and vice versa), creating a cohesive experience between partners and T4A’s programs. 

Regular Assessment and Progress Monitoring

  • Diagnostic testing for math and ELA just wrapped up, and there’s plenty of room to grow on all fronts. We expect to see lots of progress from these fantastic students at the end of the semester on their final assessments!

Thoughts from the Coordinator

“I think there are two or three things I’m most looking forward to at Codman. Like every year, I look forward to forging relationships with the students so that tutorial becomes a productive and welcoming space for them. I also look forward to working directly with Codman teachers and other staff to ensure effective use of class and tutorial time, which I only did minimally as a Program Coordinator. I hope whatever influence I have is only positive!” – Sahar Hakim


Introducing Our New Program Managers, Carra and Sahar!

As the school year gets into full swing, we at Tutors for All would like you to meet two new members of our team: Carra Fraker and Sahar Hakim! They’ve been doing terrific work this past month to help students and tutors start strong.

We recently had the chance to chat with Carra and Sahar about their backgrounds and experiences so far with T4A.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
William Tangorra PhotographyCarra: I’m the newest Program Manager at T4A, and I’m working for the Boston Green Academy program. I’ll also be focusing on some curriculum development and grantwriting. Before working for T4A, I was an ELA teacher at a large public suburban high school, and I loved it, but I decided that it was time for a career change that would expand my impact. I have a B.A. and an M.Ed from Boston College.

Sahar: I’m the Program Manager at Codman Academy as wellSahar Hakim headshot
as the Marketing Manager at T4A. I’ve been in Boston my whole life—I received a B.A. in English from Simmons College, and after an editorial internship at Beacon Press, I applied for and received an M.A. in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College. All throughout my school career, I have been a tutor in some way, shape or form (though usually as a language tutor), and spent a few years as a private tutor in Arabic and Qur’an studies for young children.

What drew you to Tutors for All?

Carra: I believe education is the greatest tool for social justice, and I felt drawn to T4A’s mission and its roots. There are plenty of organizations that are doing their part in addressing the achievement gap, but it seems to me that Tutors for All is one of the most student-centered. I also love having the opportunity to work with students at the K-12 level and at the college and graduate school level.

Sahar: I discovered Tutors for All during my sophomore year at Simmons, and tutored at the Prospect Hill Academy and MGH Programs during the summer of 2011. I really enjoyed the ways in which I could work on my own and reflect as part of a team. Later, when I joined as a Program Coordinator, I realized that so much of what I stand for involves working between “at the forefront” and “behind the scenes,” along with establishing and strengthening relationships outside of an academic mindset. So I try to implement that at every program where I work.

What is the most rewarding part about working for T4A? What have you learned so far?

Carra: I’ve done nothing but learn so far! It’s such a pleasure to be with like-minded and hard-working colleagues who are eager to help me learn and grow into this new position. I think the most rewarding thing will be watching students become more confident in their abilities while simultaneously watching tutors, who are of course also students, gain a new skill set and grow in their professionalism. T4A really serves both groups.

Sahar: The most rewarding part is definitely relationship-building with students. It’s a process and a balance that’s renewed every year, but I’ve learned that even stopping a student to say hello and ask how they’re doing is more effective than immediately asking for a hall pass. The more you engage positively with a student, the more you’re likely to have an impact on them, and vice versa. Sometimes, students may come up to me and show me something they’ve learned, or ask to bring home an assessment they’re proud of, and encouraging them in that way is always rewarding to me.

What are you most looking forward to in your work with T4A in 2017-2018?

Carra: I’m looking forward to learning more about grantwriting–that is a new area for me!

Sahar: Currently, I’m looking forward to the prospect of Codman being a weekday program. In my experience as a Coordinator, Codman was exclusively a Saturday program, but I think being on campus Monday through Thursday gives me and the tutors a better opportunity to integrate ourselves into the school’s environment and community, and to meet more closely with students and teachers! I’m also looking forward to having a heavier hand in the way of marketing and social media; it lets me apply a lot of what I learned in the way of publishing in ways I never thought I’d be able to.

What has been your most memorable T4A experience so far?

Carra: On my very first day, our Special Projects Associate Kyle rollerbladed into the office to deliver baked goods. I thought to myself, “I think I’m going to be very happy here…”

Sahar: There was a time last fall when I was visiting Codman to do some inventory for the upcoming program, and as I was leaving, I happened to run into one of our students from last year. His reaction, and how happy he was to see me still working as part of the Codman community, really sticks out to me.

What are your personal goals for the future?

Carra: I’m eager to grow into new leadership roles. One of the reasons I left the classroom (which was a very difficult choice, by the way) was because I felt I was ready for new challenges, but I also felt that getting my administrative license and becoming a principal wasn’t the right path for me. I think T4A is a unique organization with a great deal of potential, and I’m so happy to be a part of its future.

Sahar: I think my current goal is to continue to establish myself as a member of the school communities where I work. In the meantime, I’ve always wanted to write a book, or be published in some way. I have ideas—it’s just a matter of getting them down on paper.