Thursday, November 1, 2012

TEENS4TEENS: Peer Tutoring Program

One of the questions I have been asked constantly while working in a public library is: where can my child get tutoring for _________ (subject)?  Since my current library does not offer tutoring for children or teens of any kind, I decided to get a little creative and give my teens another volunteer opportunity.  Thus was born TEENS4TEENS (T4T).  I've been running this program for about two months now and have approximately 30 teens involved with the program.  So far, response has been overwhelmingly positive.

This is a low cost program but does require a substantial amount of time to set up and coordinate.  However, you are providing a great service for your teens who are struggling academically while allowing the teens who need volunteer hours a chance at earning on a weekly basis.  This program really is win/win for the teens involved.

How do I start a T4T Program at my library?

  • Set 2-3 specific times during the week as T4T official times.  Example: Mondays & Thursdays 6:30-7:30pm and Saturdays 10:30-11:30am.  I recommend limiting tutoring sessions to one hour, once a week so as to not overwhelm Teen Tutors.
  • Reserve a specific (public) meeting space for T4T - To protect both you and your teens you want the tutoring session to occur in the open, not in a closed room.  Example: My library's T4T sessions occur at the tables in the Teen Area.  I have signage posted that that are is reserved for T4T during the three days/times of official T4T tutoring sessions.  If someone is loud they are asked to move.
  • Limit ages for both tutors and students. Example: I only take 12-18 year olds in grades 6-12.
  • Develop both tutor and student application forms as well as signage for the program.  Example: See Files tab at top of blog.
  • Create form letters for First Meeting Introduction, Tutor Instructions and Student Instruction emails. Example: See Files tab at top of blog.
  • Contact local schools to let them know about the program and that you are looking for teen volunteers.
  • Set limit to number of times either a tutor or student can "no show" before being removed from the program. Example: My program has a three strikes rule. If a tutor/student fails to show three times (not consecutive) without contacting the library or the person they are meeting, they are dropped from the program.
  • Devise a way to track teen volunteer hours. I track mine on a monthly basis by having teens sign in and out each week and then entering the information on an Excel sheet.
I've done all that.  Now what?
Now comes the hard part - coordinating it all!
  • As teens begin submitting applications begin matching them based on meeting time and subject.
  • When parents submit applications for tutoring (i.e. needing tutoring) make sure they are aware that the tutors are volunteers and that it may take some time to match their child.
  • Prepare for the program to start off slowly.  As word spreads about "free tutoring" you'll likely begin getting more "needs tutoring" applications than you can keep up with. I just keep them on file and contact the teen/parent via email every week or so until I can get them matched.
Issues You Will Face:
  • As you know, teens can be notoriously flaky.  Tutors show and their students don't or students show and their tutors don't.  This is why I've developed the three-strikes rule and am very strict in enforcement.
  • Teens don't always check their email.  If I have sent an email and not gotten a response within 48hrs I call and leave a message for the teen to contact me.  (Training teens to check their email at least every other day is good for older teens as they begin applying for scholarships and colleges.) Feel free to point out that it is their responsibility to check for the message as you will not have enough time to call everyone involved in the program.
  • Pushy parents.  There will be parents who harass you about matching their students or who will have unreasonable expectations about what kind of tutoring is being offered.  Make it clear that this is a peer tutoring program and that teens are helping other teens.