RSGC’s peer tutors might not get a lot of recognition, but the work they do is invaluable to strengthening the school community.
The Peer Tutoring club, which is now in its third year, began with a pilot program in 2013-14, led by then-prefect Shawn Wu ‘14. The idea for such a program came out of discussions at Camp Arowhon around doing something meaningful for the RSGC community. The program has now grown to include 20 peer tutors, and 22 tutees in both the Junior and Senior Schools.
The program is flexible and designed to meet the needs of the participating students. In the Junior School, students meet with their peer tutors once a week for one hour in the library. Tutors are avail- able for the whole term, but many end up forming longer-lasting relationships with their tutees. In the Senior School, the tutor-tutee relationship is less structured and more flexible. Tutoring sessions may be for one day or several weeks, and might focus on one or multiple subjects. Boys are responsible for setting up the meetings. Some Senior students even tutor more than one peer at a time, depending on their schedules and the students’ needs. Faculty members work as a team to recruit tutors and identify students who could benefit from tutoring.
The program also provides training for the peer tutors, and opportunities to learn about themselvesand their own learning styles. Sessions cover topics like “Education 101,” learning styles, how to open up dialogue with your tutee, and more. Tutors also have the opportunity to engage in classroom observations, and many report that they gain valuable insight into their own teachers’ methods and strategies in the classroom.
“The tutors really learn so much, and they’re able to share their experiences and learn from each other,” says Laura McPhedran, Senior School learning strategist and Peer Tutoring program coordinator. In addition to the training sessions, tutors keep a weekly log documenting their successes and challenges, and meet with the program coordinator approximately once a month to reflect, ask questions, and get feedback.
What makes the peer tutoring model so effective? “The relational piece is the most important part of the program,” says Laura. “Research shows that peer-based relational learning is a very effective learning method for boys. If students know they are liked and respected, they will be more open to learning.”
For Robert K, a Grade 11 student who has been involved with the program since its inception, these relationships are the most rewarding aspect of being a tutor. “It’s really nice to be able to meet and ge to know all these young Georgians. I’m still tutoring a Grade 5 boy, and I met his entire grade. I’m friendly with them at this point, and they recognize me when they see me on campus. I remember when I was in [the Junior School], I looked up to the senior boys, and I’m glad I can be that guy you see across the tarmac and connect with.”
Peer tutor and Grade 10 student Jeremy R feels similarly: “When I was in the Junior School, I looked up to the older boys a lot. I thought it would be really great to be a role model and have an opportunity to form relationships with the younger boys at school. It’s been very positive to have those relationships.” According to Jeremy, his sessions with his Junior tutee are “both academic and social.” Each tutoring session enables his tutee to work through his homework, ask questions, and get support. But the tutors learn just as much – if not more – than the peers they are tutoring. “I’ve learned about [my tutee’s] learning style and how kids learn in general,” says Jeremy. “The reflective process helped me to learn about myself and my own strengths, too. I learned that I like helping people, being encouraging and supportive, and not giving up.” Feeling connected to his community is a major motivation for Jeremy to continue as a tutor next year.
Robert also plans to continue tutoring, as well as pursue a position as a camp counselor this summer. He says that his experience as a tutor has taught him more than any other leadership experience. Moreover, tutoring has helped him gain insight into his own learning style and has inspired him to work hard on his studies. “I think I’ve learned to be a better student through tutoring. My work ethic has improved by seeing these students, as young as Grade 3, be so willing to commit the time to catching up and excelling.”