What it Means to be an AVID Tutor Leader
By Rayn Phillips, AVID Tutor, Lincoln High School
The first time I heard about the AVID program, I was sitting in the Community Service Office at Arcadia University speaking with my supervisor about how I wanted to do more than I was previously at another off-campus work study site. I was a senior in college and after spending most of my semesters studying politics and social issues and developing an interest in law, I was ready to work with people hands-on.
Cindy Rubino, the Director of Community Service, suggested that it would be a good program for me to take part in as I was very passionate about the political and legal aspects of education and felt as though I would be able to make an impact. As I reflect on my past and current experiences with AVID, I realize that it has made more of an impact on me than anything. I was excited to be placed at Lincoln High School in the Fall 2013 semester as I believed that the last four years of our public education are the hardest not only scholastically, but socially as well.
Many of students in today’s inner city schools struggle with the dichotomy of being an adult in one way and still a child in need of support in another. There are three things that I learned during my time in AVID with respect to the curriculum, tutorology, and practices that made AVID a successful program at Lincoln. There were also some aspects of the AVID program at Lincoln that faced challenges.
First, I found that peer tutoring was effective on the premise that the students feel less intimidated with a friend or a classmate helping them through a problem than they possibly could feel one-on-one with an adult or someone older than them. For example, in my 11th grade class, the students who were in a different class section of the same subject, but ahead by a day or class period, were able to assist those who were new to the concepts that they couldn’t understand. In addition, they were able to utilize their Cornell notes, as well as the explanations of the subject materials from their peers which provided a broader spectrum of learning. Second, I found that the components of the Tutorial Request Form, which students use to create their questions for their tutorial sessions as homework, permits students to not only understand every vital part to finding a solution, but it also allows students to determine the differences of each component–elements that are vital in the critical thinking process.
Another beneficial element of the AVID program at Lincoln is the college readiness curriculum which assists students in the college application process and helps to prepare them for a new academic world, while providing some real world skills that are necessary (financing, building a resume, interviews). In my time as a tutor and a tutor site leader, I have discovered that I made an impact on my students and how they think and feel about college. For example, through a self-perception and career building assignment, I pushed them to think critically not only about college, their career goals and aspirations; I pushed them to think about themselves critically. I was surprised that they would be fully engaged in this assignment, which asked them to think about their favorite activities, their skills, and their strengths and weaknesses because that is something every person has trouble figuring out. At the same time, I was surprised to see the pleasure and pride they began to take within themselves even while expressing things they felt were negative traits. For example, one of my students told me that she considered her impatience as an overall weakness and said that it was something she wanted to improve. While it is true that it is helpful to be patient, I explained to her that patience is not a trait that one would need for every situation and career. Another student asked me if playing a musical instrument was a skill and I asked them to think about what is needed from an individual to learn how to play an instrument and how to play it well (patience, determination, practice) so he could see how multiple skills can be found within pursuing one activity.
The challenges I faced as a tutor in AVID at Lincoln High School varied. I think that the first challenge is something that every tutor faced. I tried to help them see and understand that they are not their grades for two reasons. The first being that students are under the impression that a grade that is below an A or a B means that they are unintelligent and as a result, are unable to do well in college. The second reason is that some students are under the impression that because they have good grades, they do not need to improve or grow intellectually and academically. As a result, I learned that there is a loss of accountability and credibility.
After assigning my 11th grade AVID students in my first year a college readiness project focusing on researching colleges and universities, the majority of them failed the assignment because they didn’t turn it in or take it seriously by submitting incomplete and poorly crafted work. Many were under the impression that because they did something that they deserved full credit. I had to take a moment of time to explain to them that while they do have to do well in school in order to be accepted into college, they may face further challenges if they are not willing to apply the amount of work that is necessary to complete or achieve a goal.
At the same time, a good grade does not mean that you learned the subject matter to the fullest extent of a course. It is better to have a lower grade in a class where you presented work to show that you understood the material and applied yourself as much as you could even when you were struggling than it is to do well in course where you followed in the steps and used the bare minimum of effort needed. I did my best to make sure that students were confident, but realistic in their abilities enough to do well and make sure that they were always willing to make improvements, no matter where they are in their education.
In ending, I am happy and proud to have served a significant part of my time as an AVID tutor and tutor site leader. As a former undergrad student studying political science and an advocate for a stronger education system, I think that a program like AVID would benefit in its expansion of all students who attend Title I schools, provided they fit the criteria of individuals who want the help provided. Systemically, the program has a strong sense of what is needed for students to not only achieve higher standards on a grading scale, but it allows them to achieve higher standards of thinking and learning as well.
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