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Relationships vs. Authority


This morning in our College Readiness A-Team meeting, we discussed how to scale up a program that is taking place at Lincoln Middle School. Started by employees of UTAS, this mentor/tutor program focuses on working with 6th through 8th grade students to increase their math skills. Currently students are taken out of math class for intensive one-on-one tutoring.

But this tutoring is more than just helping with homework. One of the coordinating tutors said that the first time he meets a student, he spends the time discussing his own family, his hobbies and what he does on a typical work day. This starts to build trust with his students so that as an employee of a local company, he is more than a tutor, he becomes a mentor to the student.

The teachers at Lincoln determine which students participate. Generally these students are at the C or D grade level in math. Often times they recommend students who are at tipping point where there grades could easily get worse, but could also get better with a little bit of work. Teachers also recommend students they know will succeed in smaller learning environments.

The outcomes have been extremely positive. For students involved in the mentor/tutor program, the schools and mentors have seen the disposition surrounding math trending positive. Additionally, attendance for students on their tutoring days is “sky high,” according to Principal Jason Grey.

Students are telling other students about the program. If you know middle school students, you know what a big deal this is.

When one A-Team member asked if parents approve of the program, Principal Grey stated that the only complaints were from parents whose children have not had the opportunity to have a mentor/tutor. Students want to be a part of the program. There is no longer a stigma regarding kids getting pulled out of class. However, right now there are only 14 mentor/tutors working within the school.

The tutoring component is helping students with math. The mentoring component is much more. Mentoring is developing a relationship with the students to  help them develop different ways to problem solving, which is a critical skill that translates to multiple avenues. It also includes helping students discover what they’re interested in and what they need to be successful.

One of the biggest takeaways for me was the statement that “students in poverty respect relationships way more than authority.” With 81% of our students in RPS205 qualifying for free/reduced lunch, this is something we need to be mindful of. And although it’s been on a smaller scale, that’s why this program at Lincoln has been so successful: because the UTAS employees are not just tutors. They’re mentors. They’re creating relationships with the students that build trust and keep the students focused on their work and why it’s relevant.

Look for an Invitation to Participate™ coming from the Career Readiness team soon to scale up the program to include more mentors for students in math, and possibly literacy as well.


Thanks to Lincoln Middle School for hosting our meeting this morning!

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