Two weeks in and things are humming along at homework assistance. The students are motivated and the volunteers are too. We have a room for students in grades 1-3 and one for students in grades 4-6, so on the nights that we have 17 or more students, there is often a pleasant but loud buzz in the rooms–well maybe more than buzz sometimes but that’s OK! Last Monday, as I walked by the older students’ room, I stopped in my tracks. You could have heard a pin drop! Every student was concentrating fully on homework or reading, with attentive volunteers ready to assist as needed. It was a beautiful sight. Soon after, when homework and reading were done and the education games came out, it no doubt got lively and the other wonderful part of being a volunteer kicked in–building rapport and relationships.
In those moments of quiet concentration, engaged conversation, and relaxed fun ( perhaps with an “Apples to Apples” game), volunteers and students create bonds and built trust. That trust enables us to work with students on more than just number facts and reading comprehension. For example, one of the volunteers last week concentrated as much on encouraging a young girl to believe that she was capable of doing the work as she did on ensuring that she completed the work. That student often knows the answer or the process to use to find it, but immediately defaults to “I don’t know.” Helping her learn to trust herself and believe in her abilities will be the best lesson we can teach. That is what makes being a volunteer special.