Volunteer Tutors Make a Difference!

Perhaps you remember one special person that made a difference in your education. Most of us can point to such a person and still celebrate the wonderful and deep impact they made.


Helping a child who is struggling in school is one of the most rewarding experiences any adult can have. If you want to see your contribution making an immediate impact, this could be your opportunity. Education is the key to success and to breaking out of poverty, and you can give a child that key without ever leaving home! Your experience as a volunteer tutor can also put you on the road to paid work, so there's something in it for you as well.

Teaching has traditionally been a face-to-face activity, but many organizations are taking advantage of modern communications technologies to bring virtual tutors like you to the communities where they are needed most. The first step is deciding who you'd like to teach. Then, depending on the age group you're interested in working with, you may need to narrow down the subjects you'll teach as well.

Elementary School Students

Assisting an elementary school student is more about creativity and instilling a joy of learning than about helping the child master complicated material. Everything learned in elementary school can be easily understood and taught by an adult. That doesn't mean you won't have to read up on what they're learning. You would be surprised how much a sixth grader learns about the solar system and how much teaching math has changed since you were in school! This level is ideal for people who love children and can patiently review material that they find simple, without becoming frustrated. Little kids take the time to understand even the most basic of concepts.

Elementary school kids also benefit from general conversations about things they're learning. If you think that talking about how cool bugs are for an hour will be more enjoyable than doing physics problems, you might make an excellent elementary school tutor.

High School Students

High school is a critical time: performance determines eligibility for college, and high school marks a significant escalation of academic demands. It's the time when many teenagers fall behind, and it's a time when falling behind can have long-term consequences. Helping a student break through roadblocks and succeed in high school can have a lifelong impact.

High school students face more complex scholastic challenges: Science, effective writing, algebra, geometry, even calculus. These are subjects that many adults have mastered at some point in time, but they are also subjects we are likely to have forgotten if we don't use them in our lives. You'll need to choose the subjects where you can help. There are three equally valid ways to make this selection. You can choose something you often use and understand deeply. Are you an electrical engineer? Help with physics or math is in high demand. A writer? Help kids polish the many essays they are assigned. If you remember being excellent at something in high school that you haven't used since you can review the material and see if you remember the curriculum. Often, people who were good at math remember how to solve problems. People who loved biology can read concepts over once or twice, and remember them. Finally, if you're interested in extending your knowledge of a subject, helping someone else can be the impetus you need to self-teach. Just make sure you understand the material before you log on to explain it!

College Students

Assisting college students is a field for specialists. You'll need to be highly qualified and fully understand the material before volunteering to work with students at this level. Even if you have the appropriate degree and knowledge, you will still need to review the particular subject matter your students are working on before logging on for each session.

There is a common misconception that college students do not need or want help. Just as some children face disadvantages that impact their scholastic achievements, college students are also working hard to overcome gaps in their educational preparation and natural abilities. 70 percent of Americans will study at a four-year university, but less than this percentage of students will graduate. More than 75 percent of college students that need to take remedial classes never graduate.[1] A bit of expert help can make all the difference.

Adults

Most of us think of "tutoring" as a way of helping young people get through school, but many adults need it as well. The US Department of Education reports that 14 percent of Americans can't read. Also, 21 percent only read at a fifth-grade level or below.[2] It doesn't have to be that way, and online adult literacy programs help adults get back on track. You can even take your volunteer tutoring commitment a step further, and work with people who are interested in getting a general equivalency diploma (GED) or learning English language skills. English language students may be foreign learners - the sessions are online, after all - or foreign-language speaking US residents.

Whether you're working with children or adults, or anyone in between, you will be providing a unique and personalized service to your students. It's not just about the material you teach, either: many people who need academic help have a critical need for personal attention and the positive reinforcement that builds confidence. Volunteer tutoring can be the difference that puts a student on the road to lifetime success.

There are multiple sites that will help you link up with those who need your help:

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