Upgrades to peer tutoring program will benefit students

New advisor, new classroom, new corp of tutors ready to help students who need academic assistance

Isabelle Paley | The Chronicle

Peer tutors Shruti Garg (left) and Tanisha Senthil (right) work together to develop an upcoming tutoring plan for the 2021 – 2022 school year.

The peer tutoring program at Mason High School is getting a makeover. Not only has the classroom space been transformed but so has the philosophy of this program aimed at helping students who need academic assistance.

Bonnie White, the new peer tutoring advisor, has taken on the challenge of rebuilding the program impacted greatly by the Covid pandemic.

The challenge of alternating between face-to-face, remote, and in-person learning hampered many of the academic programs in the high school and the peer tutoring program was no exception.

Communication difficulties were a major hurdle for senior tutor Lauren Varga. Varga felt tutoring from a remote situation simply wasn’t ideal when it came to helping the students who needed her assistance.

“If students can’t see what they are doing wrong on the piece of paper that they are using, it’s so hard to say ‘Right here, this is what you missed’ over a computer screen,” Varga said.

In a normal school year, face-to-face communication plays a critical role in the learning process. That process was interrupted over the past year and a half due to the pandemic.

Tutor Clair Wilburn started in the program as an Independent Study participant and how she is the group’s president and intern. Wilburn said that she felt that the peer tutoring lacked the typical luster last year, and needed to be revamped this year so that every student needing help could receive it.

“We’re kind of rebuilding the program from scratch,” Wilburn said. “We’ve got these two classrooms…where we can have group tutoring going on in one [classroom] and one on one tutoring [in the other].”

A new classroom setting has been created in the Z2 pod. Besides the new room, numerous educational aids have been added. There’s more space and whiteboards to help tutors work out problems and visually demonstrate the topics that students require assistance.

Another feature that has been implemented is the addition of a cool light system. Wilburn said that blue lights will help kids focus and create a more comfortable learning environment.

White takes over as the peer tutor program director after previously serving as a high school math teacher. Now serving in a ful- time capacity, White hopes to build on the solid foundation of the program to create an even more comprehensive support network for students.

Her personal goal for this year is to build something that is going to last while also creating a support system for Mason students for years to come.

“We’re really trying to work with the teachers to catch everyone up on what they missed last year,” White said, “That’s our main goal — to make sure that everybody’s where they need to be after last year.”

With the disruption of a regular learning environ ment in March of 2020, many kids’ routines were altered. As the new school year is starting, and with many students coming back in person, some are finding themselves struggling in certain classes.

As students are realizing the amount of information they have missed from either online learning or quarantines, they are finding that they may need help in filling some of those gaps. That is where White hopes the peer tutoring program can make an immediate impact by recruiting plenty of peer tutors.

“[Our goal] is to grow the [program] as much as possible and get as many tutors as possible so that we can help as many kids as we can,” White said. With over one hundred tutors signed up so far, the size of the program is certainly increasing in size.”

Even though this program is advertised as academic assistance, tutors and the kids they tutor form a bond. This relationship-building can play an instrumental role in eliminating some of the stigma associated with receiving extra help thus making the program more impactful.

Varga recalls working with a student who was reluctant to receive help. After a few sessions of getting to know Varga, the student started to open up and be more willing to come to peer tutoring sessions and the two began to form a lasting friendship.

“I really got to know him as a person rather than me just tutoring him,” Varga said. “He ended up getting an A on the test and passing the class all while we were having fun.”

The peer tutors officially opened for business on September 7. If a student needs help from anything from Algebra to Mandarin, the tutors are a valuable resource. Students who need help can speak to their teacher to request to see a tutor in the program.

Wilburn wants kids who need help to know that they do not need to fall behind in their classes, get stressed out, or overhwhelmed if they need help. Simply seek help because there’s an entire regiment of tutors ready to help.

“There is always someone who needs help in something,” Wilburn said, “and somebody’s [always] willing to help.”

Photo contributed by Abigail Waechter