Class that changes lives

Students+in+Peer+Tutoring+Class+take+a+field+trip+to+Fort+Thomas+Coffee.
Students in Peer Tutoring Class take a field trip to Fort Thomas Coffee.

Students in Peer Tutoring Class take a field trip to Fort Thomas Coffee.

Students in Peer Tutoring Class take a field trip to Fort Thomas Coffee.

Chloe Bramble, Staff Writer

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“Peer Tutoring: This course provides eighth grade students with the opportunity to assist students with disabilities become more included in everyday life.  Peer tutors accompany students with disabilities into general education classrooms, community experiences and any other activity that occurs in the middle school. Peer tutors model age appropriate behaviors, good citizenship, and help students develop new skills.” This was the description given for the Peer Tutors when students were selecting their classes.  according to Mrs. Lori Maines, Guidance Counselor, taking this class would require a special skill set.

There are many advantages to establishing a Peer Tutoring program in a school. According to Peer Tutoring in Education, “This strategy has been proven to help students on both sides master content and gain self-confidence in specific skills.” One teacher cannot provide attention to multiple students in a class at one time. Peer tutors help with this struggle and give attention and help to those in need of it. According to Peer Tutoring in Education, “Because of increased individual attention, students with disabilities also get immediate feedback and positive reinforcement more frequently, which results in higher academic performance.”

Peer Tutoring began three years ago. Mrs. Maines said, “There was need for help with our students with disabilities and we knew we had students with strong leadership abilities who would be great candidates for the program.” This program has offered many students opportunities to make new friends, help others, and teach students even more about leadership and the importance of confidentiality. This is exactly what Mrs. Emily Kelly, Special Education teacher, wants this program to teach her students. She said, “We hope that by the end of the quarter, peer tutors learn to treat everyone, disability or not, equally and with respect.  We hope that maybe the peer tutors are given the opportunity to make a friend they would not had a chance to make.  We hope the peer tutors learn to support and advocate for students with disabilities not just in the middle school but whoever they might meet in life.”

Originally, this class was set up to accept 16 students. Due to the low amount of students with disabilities, this number was reduced to eight. Sarah Thurnauer, eighth grader, said, “At first, I don’t think any of us realized that the class was only accepting eight students for the year. I was only notified of this change about half way through my writing and rewriting process, and I think that added more stress over the essay and the class itself.” Only one student would be helping per class. This made the odds of being accepted as a peer tutor even smaller. Thurnauer said, “I spent what felt like weeks writing and rewriting and peer reviewing and revising and changing it. I wanted this essay to be perfect.  I knew that when I turned it in, I would no longer have control over it. I kept it for as long as possible before turning it in.” Twenty-seven students submitted essays and many were disappointed with their results, as only eighth were chosen to take part in this elective.

Mrs. Kelly, said, “Being a good friend and understanding the importance of confidentiality or privacy, especially in the special education program, is super important.” These requirements for the students were taken in account when the peer tutors were chosen. Mr. Michael Howton, Principal, was the person who actually read over these essays. Mr. Howton said, “When reading the essays, I highlighted those that showed a true desire and past history of volunteering and supporting others. Within the response was it passionate, sincere and meaningful in their desire to show care, support and responsibility in their role as peer tutor.” Mr. Howton did seek some help when deciding the right students for the class. He asked teachers for feedback about each student. For example, Mr. Howton said, “We asked teachers to give feedback on those submitting essays. We wanted those students who were kind, helpful, supportive, patient, and showed leadership.”

During this class period, peer tutors assist students with tasks, assignments, and other skills with which the students are working. Thurnauer said, “We worked on reading and language arts. We read books, articles, passages, and would then answer questions about them.” If there was still class time after the reading was completed, peer tutors would continue the class with working on homework assignments and projects. During this class’ focus period, the students do some sort of fun activity. Recently, they made slime and went on a small field trip to Kroger. They also took a small field trip to Top This Donut Shop on the last day of the first quarter. Thurnauer said, “We also made smoothies, carved a pumpkin, and then baked its seeds.” Mrs. Kelly said, “Being a peer tutor I expect the peer tutors to be present. Not only am I counting on them to help students with their work, but the student is counting on them too.  The students look forward to the peer tutors coming into our classroom and it helps that the peer tutors enjoy and want to be here too.”

Another peer tutor for first quarter was Annie Perkins, eighth grader. Perkins said, “I signed up for this class in the first place because I realized how great an opportunity it was. Though it doesn’t seem like it at first, this class consists of changing someone else’s life.” Perkins said that her favorite part about the Peer Tutoring class was getting to see her students understand difficult topics that she has taught them. She finally understands how much joy students bring to teachers every day. In addition, Thurnauer said, “I believe the experience has helped me to grow, not only as a student, but as a person. The chance to be able to learn while helping someone else interested me, and I’m so thankful that I decided to get up the nerve and sit down and write an essay.”

Any peer tutor, past or present, are happy to share their experience from the Peer Tutoring classroom. On the surface, the students with special needs seem like the ones that benefit from the program, but in reality, the peer tutors are even more changed by this class. Recently, a past peer tutor contacted Mrs. Kelly about more opportunities to volunteer her time with disabled students. Mrs. Kelly said, “They wanted more information on how to participate and volunteer with students with disabilities because the time they had in the Peer Tutoring class made an impact on their life.”  Mrs. Kelly also said, “My favorite part about this class actually happens outside of the Peer Tutoring class.  What I mean is when I see peer tutors interacting with the students from my class outside of class time.  For example, saying hi in the hallways or in the cafeteria, including them in groups in the classroom.  This is something that happens naturally and I love to watch these natural interactions.”

After three years, the peer tutoring program is a very popular elective at the middle school.  Everyone involved reaps the benefit of cooperative learning and caring.

 

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