“Would you like to volunteer as a tutor?” asked my grandmother. I had no idea how this simple question would be the catalyst that would transform my values and purpose. Up to that point, I did not have very many responsibilities other than schoolwork and after-school clubs. So, being the easily-agreeable person that I am, I responded nonchalantly with a “sure, why not.” I assumed this volunteer work would emulate past volunteer experiences such as: setting up computers, cleaning up trash on the beach, and shelving books. Well, I was wrong, I was able to see firsthand how my actions helped improve other teens’ lives.
My start date arrived, and my task was to tutor inner-city high school students in math. I was met with student after student all seeking to learn. Each with different problems, but all with a common theme of feeling that they were just not good enough to be successful. Each had a different story which led them to this nonprofit organization and feeling of unworthiness. I soon realized that not only was my job to teach math in an understandable way, but also to treat them with respect and let them know that they do matter.
Each student learned differently, so I used creative ways to help them learn. I taught them math, but they taught me patience and the power of positive reinforcement. Week by week, the same students would return and looked excited to see me, as I was them. I also noticed improvement and more confidence in their faces. A couple of them even discussed their newfound plans to go to college.
This life-changing experience had many road bumps along the way. During the middle of the school year, tutoring became hard to manage activity because of all the testing my school does, since it is considered one of the best and hardest high schools in the United States. An example of this is when I took the SAT in school and then tutored afterwards, I was completely worn out and just wanted to rest my mind, but I decided to still help these students. Even with these challenges, I was still able to persevere through the process, getting math through to them, which in turn helped them start getting good grades on tests.
This experience was strangely rewarding for me because originally I was doing it for material gain from scholarships, but then it morphed into joy just from seeing these students grow and do better in the subjects that they were originally having a hard time understanding. This proud teacher mentality even runs through to now where I’m still tutoring students, but not for scholarship hours, but just for the experience it brings. The ones mostly rewarded for this are the students because they started getting better grades on tests, providing a confidence boost to do better and go to college.
Tutoring was a unique experience because it allowed me to help people grow and it also changed me by helping my ideals mature and change. My act of tutoring benefits society because it helps students who may not have succeeded have a chance to obtain success.