As an educator, there is nothing more important than students having the resources they need in order to accomplish above and beyond. I feel that all children should have the chance to experience an after school program. I have worked for the Y after school programs as a site-director and it can be very much a challenge, not only for me, but for the parents also who have to pay a hefty amount each week for just a few hours of after school care. The YMCA after school program is wonderful if the parents can afford it. But as we know, living in reality, there are lots of parents who cannot afford it, especially with an economy at a standstill at times.
So I was in search of some part-time work and came across Academics Plus, an after school program in need of tutors and lead teachers for low-income students who need the advantage of an after school program just as many children do. I applied for the job and eventually got placed in a local elementary school, Isenburg Elementary, just so happens I actually went to this school so I was more than willing to help out in any way that I could.
I was assigned a group of third grade students, not any more than five usually. Under the Academics Plus program the students receives additional help to work on in workbooks concentrating in Math and Reading. I was ready to help these children because I feel that just because they are from low-income households they still deserve a chance to succeed and not be neglected for not having money for pricier after-school programs. Programs such as the Y allow the children to play games, work on homework and have free time in a gym or on playground. The difference is simply that Academics Plus concentrates mainly on excelling and improving reading and math skills during the two and half hours which meets twice a week.
My students and I would meet in a smaller classroom and for the first hour we would just focus on Math, in workbook that is designed for their grade level. I found that my students actually enjoyed working on improving their academic skills and it was really a positive attribute to their focus in becoming more studious. We would take a small break in between the transition to Reading workbooks. I really felt that having a small concentration group such as five students as to 60 plus at the Y was a really an educational purpose that was going to show these children how to get ahead, and not feel as though they were being overlooked. I think it is very important for a child to have after school care because the alternative is that they are at home alone. My students were comfortable with me telling me about their day and any time they did not know how to answer a question I was there to help them.
I encourage my after school students to ask as many questions as possible because it may be a problem where they do not understand fully, so they learn in after school they will hopefully know when they are in the classroom. The students were tested at the end of the tutoring, after about 2 months of meeting twice a week. It was really a special experience for me because instead of working with many children I felt like I could focus on the individual child’s needs. I really got a feel for what these children are going to become, and believe me, all five are hopeful artists, teachers, doctors, basketball players even though they were not born with a silver spoon.
I also wanted my children to feel rewarded for their hard work. One time I brought in copies of their favorite books, such as Dr. Suess, activity books and Goosebumps. They were literally overjoyed to have books they loved. We also had cupcakes too! My experience as a tutor was of course hard work from wanting to help but the students met me half way and helped themselves as well. I feel that after school programs should gear more towards academic time instead of just playing games, it is important to play but it is more important to get the work done and fully understand what the student is learning also. I strongly recommend parents who cannot always afford or have more than one child in need of after school care to ask the school if there are programs like Academics Plus, which will enhance your child’s learning and well being not only for a couple hours but can help them during the school day as well.