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Becoming a Volunteer Tutor

Updated December 4, 2020 . AmFam Team

Ready to make a difference in a student’s life? Consider volunteering as a tutor! We can help! Get a first-hand look at things like how to get involved, tips to be successful and benefits of volunteering your time.

Do you enjoy helping other people? Is there a subject you excel at? Have you always wanted to share your expertise with others? Then volunteering as a tutor could be the right fit for you!

Tutoring can be a great way to volunteer your time, give back to your community and make a real difference in someone’s education. You’ll play a large role in shaping a student’s sense of self-worth and self-confidence — which can be rewarding for both you and the student!

We talked to three American Family Insurance employees about their experiences as a volunteer tutor. With their guidance, we’ll take a first-hand look at how to get involved, tips to be a successful tutor and benefits of volunteering your time. Let’s dive in!

How to Get Involved with Tutoring

So, what exactly does it take to get involved with tutoring? According to Marissa Rieder, an associate project manager at American Family, there usually aren’t any qualifications or requirements to become a volunteer tutor — other than a quick background check. Marissa says, “If you feel knowledgeable in a certain area and enjoy working with others, give it a try!”

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Getting started as a tutor takes some minor preparation. You’ll need to decide which subject (or subjects!) you’d like to teach, the age groups or grade levels you’re most comfortable working with and how much time you’re able to commit to volunteering. Once you’ve established your parameters, it’s time to find your tutoring fit!

Sometimes finding the right volunteer opportunity can start with a place you’re already familiar with — work! If you’re interested in volunteering, a good place to start could be the company you work for. Marissa connected with her student through American Family’s volunteer database, which has numerous volunteer opportunities including tutoring.

A quick internet search could also do the trick. For example, VolunteerMatch is a quick and easy route to find ways to give back in your community. Insert your ZIP code or city, then narrow down your area of interest, and it’ll populate a variety of opportunities you can easily apply for.

Word of mouth or directly contacting schools in your area are also great ways to find volunteer tutoring opportunities. You can always reach out to someone in your network and ask them if they’ve volunteered and what their experience was like.

The need for help is out there! It’s up to you to do the research, find a good fit and answer that call.

Consider IT Skills-Based Volunteering

Are you an IT professional looking for ways to give back? Consider IT skills-based volunteering — it’s a way to work with a cause you’re passionate about, while using your best skills. Here’s what to know.

Why Volunteer Tutors Matter

Volunteer tutors can make a huge difference in the success of a student and their education.

Consider this:

  • Four out of ten kids start kindergarten already behind — and for many, they only fall farther and farther as they progress through the grades
  • There's often not enough time in the school day to help these kids get caught up
  • Every minute a tutor spends supporting and teaching a child can help them overcome that gap and get on track for success — and you never know what dream that will lead them to!
  • Every child deserves the opportunity to graduate school, and tutors can help make that opportunity a reality

The big picture? Beyond making a difference for an individual child, every kid that makes it to high school graduation is one more adult who can successfully participate in our economy and our democracy. Therefore, tutors can literally make the world a better, more inclusive place when they help kids catch up academically.

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How to Become a Volunteer Tutor

You know how to get involved and you know why it’s important — now it’s time to talk about what can help you succeed as a tutor. Because the difference between a good volunteer tutor and a great one can make a world’s difference in a student’s life.

What Skills Do You Need as a Tutor?

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or have a specialized degree to be a tutor! Lots of kids need help with basic skills like reading, spelling, addition, multiplication, geography and more.

That being said, there are still some skills you’ll want to have. Here are a few to consider:

Understand and explain concepts

While you don’t need a math degree to tutor in math, one essential skill is to understand the subject and have the ability to explain it. Take it from Sam Hern, a business analytics analyst at American Family, who says, “It’s important for the tutor to be knowledgeable in the subject. In addition, the tutor needs to be willing to explain concepts in several different ways because students might not understand a certain explanation.”

Marissa also says understanding the subject matter is important, and that a good tutor is, “intentional, positive, encouraging and understanding.”

Do you understand concepts well, but you’re not too sure how you’ll do explaining them to a student? Check out YouTube videos explaining concepts and practice explaining example problems to yourself before tutoring the student. You can predict the questions they’ll ask and how you’ll want to answer them!

Be empathetic

Take the time to get to know the student and their interests. It’s important you have the ability to understand the student individually. Embracing diversity and differences — understanding each student comes from different family structures and lived experiences — can help you reach more kids and have a bigger impact.

Having this empathy can help your student feel more confident, comfortable and you’ll be able to adjust your teaching style to their unique needs. Tutoring isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, so this awareness is key to being a great tutor.

Don’t be too serious

Sure, tutoring someone isn’t supposed to be all fun and games, but that doesn’t mean it has to be serious all the time. We asked Lisa Simmons, a sales planning manager at American Family, what tips she had for someone who wants to be a tutor. Her response? “Have fun! Know that while it doesn’t seem like much, you’re helping a child that may not have someone to read with them at home or doesn’t have access to one on one time with a teacher. They feel special that they have you reading with them.”

Think of some fun ideas you can bring to each session, like a new joke each week or asking fun trivia questions. You might not have a lot of time to spend on it, but starting with a little fun before jumping into the more serious tasks can make things a lot more lighthearted and enjoyable for both you and your student.

a person holding a baby

A few other key skills a great tutor should have:

  • Communication
  • Patience
  • Adaptability
  • Organization
  • Enthusiasm
  • Creativity
  • Good listener

Think you’ve got some of these skills in you? Whether you’ve mastered all these skills, only a few or you’d like to work on improving them, becoming a volunteer tutor could be perfect for you!

What’s the Time Commitment for Tutors?

Considering volunteer tutoring but think it will take up too much time? Think again! Marissa says she tutors for 30 minutes a week with her student, while Sam says he typically spends one to two hours a week tutoring. When it comes to volunteer tutoring, some places might have a minimum time requirement, but it’s usually up to you to decide how much time you can commit.

Lisa volunteers with United Way and says, “Thirty minutes a week is what we ask for, but you can do more or less. The great part about it is you can sign up for time slots that work for you. It doesn’t have to be the same time every week — you can adjust and sign up for what fits your schedule.”

See? Volunteering doesn’t have to take up too much time — and it might even improve your time management. Take it from Marissa, who says, “Finding balance to offer tutoring while maintaining work responsibilities and my personal life situation was important.”

How does making a difference in your pajamas sound? Lisa, who uses the online tutoring program Vello says, “The cool part about Vello is that you can read with a child from anywhere — work, home, using your computer or even from your smartphone.” With virtual learning so popular, tutoring virtually is becoming more common. Now you can jump online and virtually volunteer your time without putting time into a commute. Not a bad way to help another person out, right?

So, whether you have 30 minutes a week or a few hours, you have the flexibility to choose what works for you. What’s most important is you’re giving a little time for the greater good.

Making a Positive Impact as a Volunteer Tutor

It’s no secret that volunteer tutoring benefits the student, but it can also be beneficial to you! Donating your time and energy and doing something good for others provides a sense of accomplishment, builds a sense of purpose and ultimately can help you feel happier.

When it comes to volunteering as a tutor, Lisa says, “The most rewarding part about tutoring is knowing you’re making a difference. Reading with a child over time and hearing them progress and become a better reader — it’s so fulfilling and makes my heart happy.”

On a similar note, Marissa says, “Seeing the success or excitement from the child you’re helping — even in a virtual world — their energy is felt and their joy spreads. Tutoring is a highlight of my week.”

One of the best parts about being a volunteer tutor is the influence you can make in someone’s life. Sam says he knows he’s made a positive impact when a student grasps a concept that they were struggling with. Similarly, Lisa says, “You can hear the progress over time reading with the kids. The parents and teachers are also able to see the difference.”

She goes on saying, “There was one little girl that I read with over time. She struggled a lot and would just skip over words she didn’t know. I would start our session by talking with her first, asking how her weekend was, did she have pets, did she like animals, etc. — trying to connect with her on what interested her. Then I would have her pick a story that she felt would be fun. In the beginning, trying to get her to sound out words she didn’t know was hard, so I would help her make the sounds and praise her for each attempt. She started to believe in herself and over time her progress was fantastic! I was so proud of her.”

Knowing you can make a positive impact in a student’s life and help them gain confidence in their abilities is a great benefit of volunteer tutoring. You never know — maybe you’ll be just the spark a student needs to find and pursue their dream!

Ready to get started? Reach out to your employer or do some digging online. With a little effort, you can be on your way to making a difference!

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