Tutoring program helps students like Ted

  • Mon Oct 5th, 2009 10:06pm
  • Life

We finished our first two years in June with a cumulative total of 338 students registered receiving 5,248 hours of free tutoring in subjects ranging from Beginning Reading to Advanced Placement Calculus.

We opened our doors for the new school year Monday. Students in kindergarten through eighth grade can come in between 6 and 8 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays; students in grades six through 12 can come in between 6 and 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. We are currently in need of tutors for all evenings. We ask for a commitment of two hours per week on any one of these nights. If you are interested in helping us with any of these needs, contact Walt Bennett at walt@villagetutors.org. You may also download tutor applications and students can be registered online at our Web site: www.enumclawtutors.org.

Financial Situation:

Thank you very much to our two sustaining members contributing $100 per month (Mail Express and Highpoint Village).

Our current financial situation:

• Debt – $7,954

• Cash – $1,955

Thank you also to our primary sponsor, the Rotary Club of Enumclaw.

We have ongoing operational expenses of approximately $1,100 per month. We can take credit card donations on our Web site at www.enumclawtutors.org or you can designate Village Tutors as the recipient of your United Way contributions.

As always, if you would like to drop in to visit your tutoring center we would love to see you. We are at 1920 Division St. in Enumclaw. Our hours are 6 to 8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. We are closed on any days the local schools are closed.

Numbers are one way of conveying the impact we are having on education within our community, but the reality they convey pales in comparison with the stories I hear from tutors of individual successes. This year, I am asking our tutors to write down some of these stories so I may share them through this article. The first of these was written by Mark Thompson of Buckley. Mark has been an active tutor with us for more than a year, working at both the Buckley and Enumclaw centers. In the beginning, Mark was skeptical of his own value in a tutoring role. I think you will see from this story that his outlook has changed dramatically.


They say for children to learn, an adult must be present in the room, and I think they’re right. I’m a tutor at the Village Tutors centers in Buckley and Enumclaw (now open in Bonney Lake, too), and this is a story about Ted (not his real name). Ted is an outgoing and friendly, sixth-grade boy. His problem is that he’s easily distracted and doesn’t focus well. Ted likes to be in rooms with a lot of activity, which is one of the reasons he comes to the tutoring center, where we keep things moderately lively – more so than a library. The other reason that he comes for tutoring is that his grades are very poor.

This day, Ted came looking for help with an assignment to write five sentences about the Greek mythological characters, Zeus and Prometheus. After working with another student, a shy, fourth-grade girl who spoke little, I approached Ted, who after more than a half-hour of boisterous activity, had written nothing on paper. Zero. Zilch. His teacher had given him very good, very concise, very easy-to-read reference material, which he showed me, and then he started talking and talking and talking.

I like it when kids talk because it helps me understand what they are thinking. I like it even better when what they say relates in some way to the assignment. When Ted said something related to the assignment, I encouraged him to write down the words, but each time, he seemed unable. In order to help him capture the moment, I encouraged him to hold his pencil ready in his hand, but the pencil kept falling down as something else captured his interest, usually his can of caffeinated, high-fructose corn syrup, from which he frequently drank.

I was determined to help Ted cross this hurdle, so I became his scribe. I brought him to a nearby computer and began to type as he spoke. Either because he was impressed with my typing skills or because he appreciated seeing his own words on the screen – I’m not sure which – his interest grew. In a level commensurate with his level of interest, I engaged him in discussion about his words and because Ted informed me that he likes storytelling, we talked only a little about grammar and a lot about how the sentences might fit well together as he introduced new ideas and characters. He began to concentrate more and more and talk less and less. Even so, we produced a good number of sentences, some of which we kept, some of which we moved around and some of which we threw away. (Remember, he needed only five to complete his assignment.)

After half an hour, my excitement grew when I realize that for the last 10 seconds, Ted had completely stopped talking. He was concentrating, trying to get his story straight in his head. Catching the attention of one of the other tutors, I grinned enormously, put my finger to my lips and pointed at Ted. My colleague smiled and gave me a thumbs up; not because Ted was being quiet, but because Ted was concentrating. This is the highest achievement for a tutor.

I’d worked with Ted previously and the boy didn’t give the impression of someone who thinks very clearly, but Ted surprised me. That day, because I listened and demonstrated that his words were important, I helped bring about a change in Ted. Ted produced two paragraphs with, if I remember correctly, about four sentences each. The flames of Prometheus ignited on Ted’s page, but that’s not the only thing that sprang up. That day, to my perspective, Ted began to think clearly. And what did I do? I provided a listening ear and a piece of paper to mark the event.

If you would like to help be a tutor, provide snacks for break time, or merely stand and be present during this learning, (Seriously, just having adults in the room helps) please go to www.buckleytutors.org or www.enumclawtutors.org and fill out an application form, or stop at the Buckley Youth Activity Center and pick up a form in person.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Come be a part of our village – Village tutors.

Walt Bennett is the founder and chief executive officer for Village Tutors.