Providing virtual tutoring for children of faculty and staff

Student tutors are paid through CARES Act allocations to the Federal Work Study program

College faculty and other staff adjusting to virtual instruction over the last year have also had to help their K-12 children tackle the challenging of remote learning.

To help, leaders at American University—inspired by a program at Barnard University—deployed Federal Work Study students to tutor faculty and staff members’ children whose schools were closed by COVID.

“We had been hearing from a lot from very harried faculty who were parents, who were trying to learn to teach online and meet their responsibilities to their students while schools were closed and their own children were learning to learn online,” says Max Paul Friedman, the interim dean of American University’s College of Arts & Sciences. “Our parents needed help.”

The tutors are paid through CARES Act allocations to the Federal Work Study program. Aside from gaining some early experience in teaching, connecting with others online is a valuable skill even students not planning for careers in education, Friedman says.

Tutors work with students at all grade levels and follow plans that come from the K-12 schools. The tutors also received some training to develop their own exercises, and can turn to university faculty members for ongoing guidance.

“The children get to work one-on-one with a friendly, knowledgeable young person at time when it’s hard to do school and they’re feeling isolated,” Friedman says.

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The tutors teach for four hours a week and have another hour for planning and preparation. More than 100 faculty members have requested tutors since the Washington, D.C. university launched the Virtual Tutoring Corps on Feb. 1.

Professor Sarah Knight Marvar, a senior lecturer in the Department of Biology, requested a tutor because her son, a second grader, is only offered three hours a day of virtual instruction by his school, which has been online since March 2020.

She appreciates her son gets one-one contact with a young person while she, among other teaching duties, designs and redesigns virtual biology labs for her college classes.

“Even though it’s virtual, he’s having to form a relationship with someone else,” Marvar says. “He’s doing something constructive while I’m teaching.”

Jan Post, director of University Budget Operations, says it’s valuable for his eighth-grade son to get help from someone who isn’t him or his wife. The instruction provided by the tutor fill some of the gaps that have arisen from online instruction.

“Online, it’s very hard for teachers to get to know their students,” Post says. “With the tutor, it’s been very easy to build more of a relationship.”

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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