Tutors look after young learners
I was pleased to learn today that “tutor” comes from the Latin word tueri, which meant to guard, or look after. It’s reasonable to claim that tutors do indeed look after children and help guard their wellbeing.
Psychologists remind us that children need to feel secure if they are to thrive as students and young citizens of their communities. The sense of security, of course, is best established at home, but it must also be felt in the outside world.
The idea of guardianship seems appropriate as I think of my time as a tutor for Forum 500 program, which is nearing the end of its second year. Its main focus is to help children learn to read, a skill critical to master other disciplines such as math and science.
Forum 500 began after a think tank of community leaders decided that education is the foremost factor in the Grand Valley’s economic development. The group concluded that highly educated students would draw in new employers who need to know they can rely on a pool of well-trained job-seekers.
As a retired teacher, I believe that one-on-one reading time with a child has huge benefits. The child is more likely to risk making a mistake when an adult close by can quietly correct it. The tutor can hone in on the child’s interests and help the child understand the relevancy of the reading matter. The child can gain confidence as a reader in a setting that is much more private than a crowded classroom. That confidence, I believe, adds to a child’s sense of security.
Each year I’ve observed that tutor-student relationships seem a bit … guarded at first. Tutors and students alike are on their best behavior, sitting stiffly and poring over books or magazines carefully placed on desks.
By springtime, everyone’s lightened up. Yesterday, when I walked into the Forum 500 classroom at Chipeta, early birds had grabbed the comfy low-slung couches and were already immersed in books that tutors and students held together. Those still at desks sat more closely than they did last fall. The atmosphere was more relaxed but also more trusting. Bonds clearly have been formed.
My student and I snagged a wedge-shaped cushion, plopped down and read a story about a family that finds a crocodile in the bathtub. (Despite first impressions, the crocodile turns out to be quite lovable.) It was wonderful to read a whimsical tale, share some laughs and pass on some language decoding skills in the process.
Forum 500 welcomes new volunteers. I hope that next year even more tutors will seize the opportunity to look after young people in such a rewarding manner.
“And we have learned that to raise a happy, healthy and hopeful child, it takes a family, it takes teachers, it takes clergy, it takes business people, it takes community leaders, it takes those who protect our health and safety, it takes all of us.
Yes, it takes a village.”
Hillary Clinton, Chicago, 1996
Photo of Secretary of State Clinton courtesy of U.S. government