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Stories by Pandemic Professors on Medium

Stories by Pandemic Professors on Medium

A feed by yourfriends@medium.com


Pandemic Professors Turns One!

Permalink - Posted on 2021-07-27 17:46

This past month marked our one-year anniversary, and we couldn’t be prouder on what we’ve been able to accomplish thanks to your support. Helping families from low-income communities get the education they deserve has been our mission from day one, and we’re so happy that over the past year we’ve been able to do just that.

As we help others along on their journey toward education, we thought we’d share a bit with you about ours, from an idea to a fully operating nonprofit. Our story begins in early 2020 at the University of California, Berkeley, during a turbulent time. As the COVID-19 pandemic caused lockdowns and major changes to daily life, education was hit especially hard: schools were forced to close, lessons had to be adjusted, and students were sent home to face virtual learning for what was likely the first time in their lives. Laptop screens replaced whiteboards, hands-on learning was traded for online assignments, and where students once could interact with instructors in the classroom, they now saw their teachers only through video calls.

The inability to gather in person caused many extracurricular activities and after-school educational support systems to shut down. This meant many students in need of extra help were left unsupported: their educational needs and goals hadn’t changed, yet everything else around them had, in a way that made meeting those needs more difficult.

While this was a new experience for some students, for others, educational and financial disparities didn’t begin with the pandemic. For years, low-income and marginalized communities have often lacked the attention and resources needed to succeed in school. These challenges are hard to overcome for students in underserved populations such as communities of color and non-English speaking communities. With the financial losses exacerbated by the pandemic and with many parents being essential workers, these students already in need faced even greater academic consequences.

That’s where we come in. At UC Berkeley, our founder, Harley Simpson, saw this education gap and recruited five other recent graduates who knew something had to be done. They came together with a common goal: to provide essential academic support and other valuable programs in order to serve communities in need, all for free.

“I had tried to find ways to volunteer as soon as quarantine began but had no luck,” Harley said. “I heard the issues my nephew and god-daughter were having and how few students were showing up to their classes. I did some research and found evidence on the impact missing a semester had on those kids, all of which is highly amplified in low-income communities. I thought free online tutoring would be an easy way to match up college students, suddenly with a lot of free time, with grade school students desperately in need of academic attention and social contact. A year later Pandemic Professors means a lot to me. It legitimately made me believe in people more than I did prior. We have also built the foundation for a real organization beyond the pandemic, which was not the original goal either. When I was a kid, we had help from so many different public services and nonprofits, so it fulfills me personally to be in that space helping others and looking for ways to advance that. I love trying to create a space where people can get experience on their terms and forward their own lives.”

We started small, catering to students at one school in Queens, New York. Since then, what began as a group of six volunteers from UC Berkeley now includes tutors from over 30 universities across the country, and that one school in Queens has expanded to 589 student applications. Our amazing tutors come from 42 different states across the country, and we now have students across 19 states. Because of the dedication from our donors and volunteers, we’re able to provide over 350 hours of instruction each week to reach as many students as possible. Read on to learn more about our demographics!

Over the last year, we’ve had the chance to provide students and families with not only free personalized tutoring but other amazing events and opportunities to help level the playing field and give them quality education and a head start in life. Our partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula, for instance, has allowed us to empower students from kindergarten through college in three underserved California neighborhoods, and our Have a Heart, Give a Heart campaign dedicated to funding our partnership with BGCP exceeded its 150-heart goal. We’ve also partnered with capstone students at Carnegie Mellon University to make our student-tutor pairing process more efficient, and our connection with the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy means we can provide empathy training to our volunteers and tutors.

In addition, we’ve held various workshops focused on financial literacy and coding to give students the knowledge they need to make smart decisions and expose them to exciting new skills. Our Instagram Live interview series has led us to conversations with inspiring individuals across various fields, and we even hosted a Spring Gala with keynote speaker Dr. Philip Zimbardo, a silent auction, and a student gallery showcase!

Those are just a few of the incredible ways we’ve been able to help students prosper over the last year, and we’re looking forward to many more years to come. We have many exciting things planned for the future (such as our 6-week summer STEM Camp!), all centered around that initial goal our founders had: to facilitate free online tutoring, cultivate community and fill the education gap, one student at a time. We wouldn’t be here without you — our supporters — and the students, who are the reason we do what we do.

To meet our founders and the rest of our leadership team, click here. If you’d like to get involved with us, visit pandemicprofessors.org/volunteer or pandemicprofessors.org/donate.

Check out some of the amazing comments our students and families have left about their experience working with us, and follow our social media pages to keep tabs on future programs. Thank you for being with us along this journey!

Written By: Christina Avery

Come Join Our STEM Camp!

Permalink - Posted on 2021-07-13 18:06

Summer is here and we are proud to host our first ever STEM summer program! STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Our Summer STEM Camp will help foster interest in these subjects through imaginative, creative, and inventive hands-on weekly sessions. It will be a fun and productive way for students to spend their time over the summer!

Why STEM Camp?

The importance of STEM has gradually grown over the past few decades. Since the turn of the new millennium, technology has become increasingly integral to society and the number of STEM-related jobs have subsequently increased. The same goes for the number of university graduates earning a degree in STEM. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at +24%.

Science and technology are a crucial aspect of our 21st-century society and their importance will only continue to expand. Engineering is in the basic design of roads and bridges, but also tackles the challenges of changing global weather and environmentally-friendly changes to our home. Mathematics is applicable to every occupation and even daily activities such as going to the grocery store. Those in the STEM field are key to sustaining our society through innovation and advancement. The simple fact is that STEM has a major influence on the lives we are living.

Here are the Details

Our STEM program will run over the course of six weeks and begins Monday, July 19th. The program is available in two sessions depending on the age of the student: one session is held for students in grades K-5 and the second session is held for students grades 6–12. Students can expect to take part in activities each week that will pertain to six different STEM disciplines, from biology, chemistry, and physics, to coding, engineering, and problem-solving using engineering. Students will also spend time completing career-related activities where they will begin to think about what career/degree they may like to pursue in the future. This camp isn’t just for students but for their families as well. Parents are encouraged to join in on these sessions as a great way for them to spend time together and learn with their child at the same time.

To sign up for our Summer STEM Camp, visit: www.pandemicprofessors.org/stem-camp

Sessions will be held weekly on Mondays, starting July 19th, 2021 at 1pm PST, 4pm EST.

Written By: Irfan Jeddy

4 Ways to Support LGBTQIA+ Students

Permalink - Posted on 2021-07-01 20:37

Graphic created by Christina Avery

During Pride Month each year, resources and information are shared to help educate about the LGBTQIA+ community. Many people express their support as allies in a variety of ways, from wearing rainbow colors to attending LGBTQIA+ festivals and celebrations. Although Pride Month has now passed, there are ways to support the LGBTQIA+ community even beyond the month of June.

The classroom is one place LGBTQIA+ support is needed. According to a survey released in September 2020 by the Williams Institute of Law at University of California, Los Angeles, approximately 9.5 percent of youth ages 13–17 in the U.S. identify as a member of the LGBTQIA++ community. A survey from GLAAD estimates that more than 85 percent of LGBTQIA+ students have been verbally harassed while in school due to their sexuality. School should be a safe place for LGBTQIA+ students to learn with equal opportunity, and to express themselves free from prejudice and discrimination. Educators play a key role in the lives of their students, and being good allies to LGBTQIA+ students can give them an environment where they feel valued as people and have the ability to focus on their education.

Here are some ways educators and schools can advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights and support LGBTQIA+ students not only during Pride Month, but year-round.

Include Supportive Imagery in the Classroom

Having LGBTQIA+-friendly items around the classroom and on walls can show students they’re supported from the moment they step in. Hanging posters with educational resources, LGBTQIA+ icons and symbols is a way you can visibly show support, as well as items like Pride-themed buttons and ‘Safe Zone’ signs. You can also display a Pride flag. If you want to go the extra mile, display multiple; each identity — such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender — has its own unique flag and colors. However, just the standard rainbow flag represents most LGBTQIA+ identities and is recognized as a symbol of allyship when hung. Celebrating Pride Month in June and LGBTQIA+ History Month in October with discussions, events and displays is also a great way to foster equality in the classroom. While marked celebrations may only be a month long, keeping other LGBTQIA+ symbols and pieces of information on display year-long lets students know they always have an advocate.

Be Mindful of Language and Messaging

It’s crucial to not only show that you’re an ally, but to speak like one, too. Language matters and words carry weight — especially for children, some of whom are still learning social etiquette and how to appropriately address others. Some traditional ways of addressing groups can be harmful to the LGBTQIA+ community, specifically transgender people. Instead, try using nonbinary language that avoids “boy” and “girl” as the only genders. Rather than calling students “ladies and gentlemen,” or “guys,” work to replace these with “everyone,” “you all/y’all,” or other non-gendered terms. This is a way to represent and include nonbinary and transgender students. Remembering to use nonbinary language may take some time getting used to, but what matters is correcting yourself if you do slip up.

Similarly, adjust designs and activities to make sure they aren’t reinforcing the gender binary. For example, avoid color-coding items with blue and pink to represent “boy” and “girl,” and don’t separate groups by gender unless unavoidable. While these may seem like smaller changes to make, those small but conscious changes can make a difference.

Also, get students involved. Using the correct pronouns for students is perhaps one of the most impactful ways to be gender-affirming and show your support. Finding out which pronouns to use doesn’t have to be difficult or uncomfortable — ”Get To Know You” surveys are a popular and private way to know more about how a student may identify. It can be as simple as asking a student what pronouns they use, what name to call them, and when it’s appropriate to use the pronouns they specify (in front of the class, with family, etc). Furthermore, make your own pronouns visible in places like your email signature, social media, or even a button or other accessory.

Be an Active Advocate

It’s also important to show that you’re actively standing up for LGBTQIA+ rights — not just putting up Pride flags or using proper language. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s National School Climate Survey revealed that “the safe space campaign, like enumerated antibullying policies, makes a tremendous difference in LGBTQIA+ students’ perceptions that their schools are safe and that their teachers are adults they can trust.” Students will notice the difference between activism that’s only performative and activism that’s backed by real effort to make change. There are multiple ways to practice active advocacy:

  • Call out homophobia and transphobia when you see or hear it happening.
  • Hold those in power accountable. Meet with school faculty and staff to discuss what can be done to better support students.
  • Request books by LGBTQIA+ authors about LGBTQIA+ people for the school library.
  • Fight anti-LGBTQIA+ rules and legislation when possible, such as transphobic dress codes and homophobic prom date rules.
  • Consider hosting a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) club, or joining one your school already has.

Reevaluating your curriculum is another way to increase positive LGBTQIA+ representation and educate students about LGBTQIA+ people, histories and experiences. For example, one teacher connects the electromagnetic spectrum in chemistry with how gender and sexuality can be a spectrum. They also change word problems and drawings to be representative of all types of relationships, not just straight ones. When it’s reading time, consider choosing books that feature LGBTQIA+ characters and stories. There are many age-appropriate and diverse choices; check out this list of books for younger children, and this list for older kids and teens.

Continue to Educate Yourself and Others

Finally, provide resources and information outside of the school for students to learn, find community and get help if needed. Compiling a list of emergency numbers, helpful sites and local resources that support LGBTQIA+ people — especially youth — and keeping it in the classroom or other easily-accessible place can provide students with crucial, potentially life-saving support. The CDC’s LGBTQIA+ Youth Resources list is a good starting point, but it’s beneficial to research resources, organizations, shelters and numbers specific to your area as well. Also, make a commitment to educating yourself on LGBTQIA+ issues: consume LGBTQIA+ media, read books and articles, do your research, and be open to discussion with LGBTQIA+ students if they feel comfortable. Being a good advocate and ally shouldn’t be limited to what you do on the outside; sometimes the most important change starts on the inside.

Written By: Christina Avery

Fostering a Better Relationship Between You and Your Student’s Parent or Guardian

Permalink - Posted on 2021-06-29 19:30

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

The tutor-parent relationship is an important relationship and unfortunately greatly overlooked. Why is it important? Well, a good relationship between you and the student’s parent or guardian serves to help students perform better personally and academically. Fostering a relationship with them as a tutor can be challenging due to a number of factors, however, there are a number of ways to build this relationship and optimize students’ learning support system over time.

Compassion and Positivity is Everything

It can be stressful for parents or guardians to engage with you. There may be fear that their child isn’t doing as well as they should be, a lack of time to connect, or even language barriers. As a tutor, being compassionate and delivering information in a well-mannered tone does wonders in situations like this. It’s best to smile, make eye contact, be welcoming, and offer any advice if needed. One good trick to help ease parents or guardians when speaking to them is to first acknowledge something positive about their child that you’ve noticed no matter how small it is. For example, you may have noticed that they are more engaged in their lessons and asking more questions.

Be Proactive and Communicate Often

Some tutors may only speak to parents or guardians when there is a problem, creating a negative environment for both. That’s why it’s key to make the effort to speak with them often whether that be face to face, phone call or even an email. It’s best to keep them up to date about their child’s learning. Communicating often keeps them from feeling on high alert when you reach out and can even foster a beautiful friendship. Of course it is important to know that parents and guardians are busy! So make sure when you communicate with them that you’re planning ahead to find a time that works best for them.

Make the Parent or Guardian Feel Valued and Ask for Their Advice

A great way to build a relationship with parents or guardians is to involve them in their child’s education. This doesn’t mean just having them help with homework, but it could mean asking them to participate in school activities or events. Asking them if they would like to help organize an event is a great way to get to know them and give them a chance to meet other parents or guardians. It could also be something as simple as creating a lesson plan that requests input from them. Of course all of this depends on their schedule and if they have time to participate. In the end, the more you try to involve them in activities, the better.

Another great way to make them feel valued is to ask for their advice. If your student is displaying negative behaviors during a lesson, it is wise to seek out the advice of the parent or guardian. By asking for their advice, two things can occur. One, they may not know there is negative behavior to begin with as the student may not be displaying it at home. Two, you are building a better relationship with the parent or guardian by getting their input in this situation, which will build trust. Questions don’t just have to be about the student’s education when speaking to them, you can also ask questions about the student’s interest and plans that they have during the holidays. It is always important for you to conduct yourself professionally when dealing with a parent or guardian but the conversation doesn’t have to just be strictly about education.

Avoid Taking it Personally and Making Assumptions

Parents and guardians are human and they have their own stress to deal with whether it be at work or in their home life. It is best for you to always keep calm and never take anything they say to heart. You should always respond with questions that will help defuse the situation. For example a parent or guardian may say “You’re saying this because you’re out to get my child” and the best way to respond to a question like this is “I’m sorry you feel this way, please let me know why you think this?”

Also you shouldn’t make assumptions about a student’s home life. Unless it has been stated so, an assumption can cause many problems and can be insensitive to a family’s situation. You should not assume that the student lives with both parents or any parent for that matter. Now, in our globally diverse world you shouldn’t assume that the parent or guardian’s first language is English and should always confirm if they can speak English in the first place. Every student will have a different situation than the next. Assumptions lead to misunderstandings which can create more challenging circumstances for learning.

Building a relationship with a parent or guardian can sometimes be challenging. Keeping these ideas in mind can help you better connect with them. It’s good to remember, at the end of the day the better connection you have with them, the better they can help teach the student, ultimately allowing them to achieve academic success and foster a love for learning.

For more information or if you’re interested in becoming a tutor at Pandemic Professors, visit us at pandemicprofessors.org/volunteer.

Written By: Irfan Jeddy

The Benefits of Financial Literacy Education for Students

Permalink - Posted on 2021-06-14 18:01

Image by Nattanan Kanchanaprat from Pixabay

Knowing how to use money wisely is one of the most important skills a person can learn. Whether or not someone understands financial literacy can greatly impact their future. Many people in America alone have outstanding credit card and student loan debt, keeping them in a perpetual cycle of loan payments, and possibly even creating more debt on top of that. This has been such a problem that nearly 53% of Americans feel stressed when thinking about their finances and 44% feel that discussing their finances is stressful. As important as it is, many schools do not require financial literacy classes and as a result, 27 states scored a C, D, or F for high school financial literacy.

Why Financial Literacy is Essential

Adults in the U.S have found it difficult to save and manage their money properly. For some, the problem often stems from a lack of understanding of financial concepts like savings, budgeting, credit, interest rates, etc. This has led to millions of people spending borrowed money (credit cards) or taking out loans without planning out how they will pay it back. It’s become such a problem that 2 out of 3 families don’t have any emergency savings, 78% of adults live paycheck to paycheck, and 3 in five adults do not maintain a monthly budget. Of course there are other external factors such as lack of affordable housing and good paying jobs that can result in this predicament. Although what would help tremendously for these people is if they were exposed to personal finance classes in their education.

By the numbers

  • 53% of adults are financially anxious
  • Three in five adults don’t keep a budget
  • Four in five youths failed a financial literacy quiz
  • 27 states scored a C, D, or F for high school financial literacy
  • 54% of millennials are concerned about student loans
  • Four in five adults experience barriers to homeownership

The Benefits

More and more schools are starting to see the benefits of teaching financial literacy. Though still rare, students who do have access to financial literacy education have seen massive benefits. The results of teaching financial literacy in classrooms has helped students improve their credit behavior, confidence, and overall healthier life. Some of the benefits of financial literacy courses include:

  • Encourages students to have good saving habits.
  • Learning about budgeting teaches responsibility and awareness. Budgeting allows for people to become conscious of their spending habits.
  • Financial literacy allows for students to become financially independent at an earlier age. Students can start learning what it takes to be on their own instead of being dependent on their parents.
  • Positive financial decisions can help students build a strong credit score. Having a strong credit score can impact a person’s entire life such as: applying for a credit card, renting an apartment, buying a car or home, and sometimes even getting a job.

Start Early

For many schools the question arises on when is it appropriate to teach students financial literacy, and the answer to that is as early as possible. Kids become aware of money from a very young age. It typically starts with witnessing transactions, media exposure and the inevitable desire for stuff. And yet, young people are increasingly unable to manage their financial health effectively. If financial literacy is taught in schools it’s typically at the high school level, but financial literacy can be taught at any age! Financial education is just as important of a life skill as mathematics, reading, and geography, with the benefits of learning it being crucial. According to one research study, two out of three high school students who had taken a financial literacy course had already started earning an average of $3,000 a year.

What About Parents?

It is important for students and parents to have conversations about financial topics as this increases knowledge and exposure. The 2017 Rowe Price Survey saw that 69% of parents are reluctant to talk about finances with their children and 23% of children talked to their parents about finances on a regular basis. Financial literacy applies to students of all paths in life, whether they pursue higher education or not.

Financial literacy is imperative for all ages.It is something that can drastically change someone’s life and future. Sadly, many families in low income communities do not have the support or resources to become financially literate. It definitely can help if schools could find ways to incorporate it into their curriculum.There are also free workshops and programs offered that can help provide a foundation for financial literacy. Here at Pandemic Professors, we are constantly introducing new Financial Literacy workshops. Our next upcoming session is on June 9th geared towards Grades 6–8. Click here or visit tinyurl.com/panprof-finlit to sign up now and follow us on Instagram and Facebook @pandemicprofessors to learn about our future Financial Literacy programs to come!

Written By: Irfan Jeddy

95,000 Materials That Will Make Tutoring Better

Permalink - Posted on 2021-05-24 19:04

Supporting our tutors is just as important as supporting our students. We strive to give our tutors the resources they need to be successful. As our organization grows, we are always seeking new partnerships with organizations who share a passion for our mission and can bolster the services we offer our communities, and that includes our tutors! And so we are excited to have partnered up with MERLOT, a system that provides access to curated online learning and support materials, led by an international community of educators, learners and researchers.


MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) is an international cooperative formed for the purpose of aggregating and making freely accessible high quality online resources to improve learning and teaching within higher education. They connect systems and institutions of higher education, professional academic organizations, and individuals to form a community who strives to enrich the teaching and learning experience. Those associated with MERLOT make it their mission to identify, peer review, and organize quality educational content for faculty and students across the world. MERLOT has been one of the pioneers in accessible online learning, so much so, that they host one of the world’s largest collections of open textbooks.

Tools for Tutors

We strive to provide the best resources for our tutors. By teaming up with MERLOT, we’ll offer tutors free access to their vast educational database. Tutors will leverage 95,000 materials in 22 different material type categories including animations, assessment tools, assignments, case studies, online courses, open-access textbooks and articles, presentations, quizzes and tests, just to name a few. Learning Exercises available include projects, papers, or activities that can be part of the coursework for a session, as well as the time involved to complete it. These materials can be organized into Collections under a specific theme, topic or subject. Our tutors can also specify their language preference and curate material searches to a specific language, especially useful for some of our tutors whose students are English Language Learners.

Our Collective Goal

We are thrilled to partner with MERLOT who shares in our mission to provide students from low-income communities with a quality learning experience. Many of our tutors today are full-time students, have full-time jobs, and carve out the time to give back to students and families in need through our organization. With an abundance of new learning tools, we aim to make their experience more fulfilling and ultimately set them up to best serve the students they care so much about.

To join our team visit us as pandemicprofessors.org/volunteer. For more information about our Partner for Purpose initiatives visit pandemicprofessors.org/partnerforpurpose.

If you are interested in partnering with us, please reach out to Sara Ellis (Director of Program Services & Development) at sara.ellis@pandemicprofessors.org.

Written By: Irfan Jeddy

Five Ways to Improve Your Students’ Ability to Learn

Permalink - Posted on 2021-05-20 18:17

Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

After a trying year, students have gone through so much change from in-person to at-home and virtual, learning new technology in an environment with all new distractions. It can be difficult to see their progress slow or to watch them lose enthusiasm for learning. There are a number of methods and techniques that can enhance a student’s ability to learn; here are five effective ways we encourage you to try.

1. Make Coursework Relatable

It can often be difficult for students to consistently relate to their coursework. This lack of connection can manifest through questions such as “Why does this matter? Why am I learning this?” Look for ways to tie lessons back to today’s world or to make them culturally relevant. Seek out the latest trends, entertainment, or even your students’ interests or activities.

Create lessons that show up in the form of your student’s everyday routine. During their snack break, infuse the basics of nutrition, reading (package labels), and math (serving sizes). Almost anything in their daily lives can serve as inspiration! When students see how their coursework can be applied to daily life, it can make learning feel more natural and more fun!

2. Allow a Student-Led Approach

Allowing students to choose how they want to complete an assignment can help their learning process and their progress. Some students are happy to do worksheets, while others may be happy writing, making a video, or creating a poster. Allowing them to lead the process can improve their engagement and allow for autonomy, as well as harness their creativity and individuality. It can give them a voice and show them how their unique qualities are what make them different and great.

3. Embrace Hands-On Learning

For some students, it can be difficult to grasp a lesson through traditional lecture or reading. By assigning activities or hands-on games or exercises, students will not only become more engaged, but it can also be a great way for a teacher or tutor to observe what students are grasping, and where they may need to spend more time. Try this hands-on lesson plan approach across all subjects from math to history and art, and offer moments for students to group together as teams. Students can learn from each other and build stronger bonds with their peers. Hands on learning can also help improve retention and ultimately embrace each students’ unique creativity.

4. Build a Positive Mindset

Learning can be an empowering experience for students. On the contrary, if challenged or struggling to make progress, it can also lead to lower confidence and self esteem. A teacher and tutor have a unique opportunity to instill confidence and boost their students’ self esteem. Use encouraging words and phrases like, “although it may be hard, you can do it.” When they see that others believe in them, in time they will learn to believe in themselves. Positivity is key to their success. Celebrate the small and the big wins. Find ways to recognize their hard work, their success and ensure they feel appreciated. Simply asking them how they are doing is one way to recognize them, to make them feel heard and cared for. In the end, students who are supported emotionally and mentally are better set up to achieve success in their academic and personal lives.

5. Open a Dialogue

While lectures are effective for some students, for others it can be difficult to stay connected, to stay interested, and to ultimately learn and retain the material. Implement ways and create opportunities for students to engage in the lesson directly. Open the session with an open discussion about the topic at hand. Allow students a moment to speak their mind and provide their perspective on the material. This discussion can create a more lively lesson, help students learn more effectively, and can provide teachers or tutors with a view into how their students think. A discussion can also bring about new concepts or ideas that the teacher or tutor may not have recognized. It can allow for students to think critically and may even bring about healthy debate.

By implementing these five methods, teachers, tutors and their students will gain an improved understanding of the material, of each other, and ultimately gain a better appreciation and love for learning.

If you’re interested in becoming a tutor at Pandemic Professors, visit us at pandemicprofessors.org/volunteer.

Written By: Irfan Jeddy

What Makes Someone a Successful Tutor?

Permalink - Posted on 2021-05-18 18:20

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

Are you thinking about becoming a tutor? There are many benefits that come with it, and it’s a great way to make a difference in your community. Becoming a tutor comes with increased responsibility, and there is always an opportunity to improve the tutoring experience for both yourself and your student. A tutor is an important job in helping future generations grow to become independent learners. Here are some qualities that make a tutor successful.

“I believe that a truly successful tutor is someone who genuinely cares about the achievements and well-being of their students, and makes an effort to connect with both the student and family on a personal level. They create a space that allows students to make mistakes and speak their mind without fear of judgment or punishment. They help these students build lifelong skills for success in all domains, not limited to academics. They remain professional and respectful of the student, while listening to their needs, desires, and experiences.”
-Joanne Kang, Head of Tutor Success at Pandemic Professors

Improve Student Learning

Student learning can come in all different forms. Some students are visual learners, some are auditory learners, and some are tactile learners. Here are some of the basics of each different type of learner.

  • Visual learners: Students prefer pictures and diagrams as opposed to written text or verbal instructions. They can listen to lectures as long as they are accompanied by visual aids. Providing pictures and diagrams before the lesson is a great way to help this kind of learner.
  • Auditory learners: Students prefer to listen to the instructor while learning, and sometimes they may verbally repeat what’s being said to reinforce their learning. Fostering open dialogue about the lesson, such as a Q&A, will help them to learn more effectively.
  • Tactile learners: Students prefer to get more hands on with the topics being taught. They learn by “doing” or act out what is being asked of them to do. Giving them exercises to complete throughout each session is a great way to help them learn best.

How should you use these different learning styles when tutoring your student? First, work with them to identify how they learn best. They do not have to fit perfectly into one learning style. Try to pinpoint those methods that work best and help your student to build good learning habits and techniques. Provide them with tips on how to manage their time, how to stay organized, and how to speak up when they have a question or don’t understand. And remember to have fun! Both tutors and students have been through stressful times. Learning can be fun and empowering for all!

Having Confidence as a Tutor

Confidence is key. The saying exists for a reason. It comes down to preparation and giving it your best. It’s okay to feel nervous or worried that you may not be the best tutor, that your student may feel confused, or ask you a question you don’t know the answer to! It’s okay to not know everything. It’s okay to follow up with the answer, and can even show your student that tutors are just like them and that it’s okay to say “I don’t know.” As time progresses you’ll gain experience. Each tutoring session will serve as practice for the next, and ultimately your confidence will grow, alongside your students’ confidence!

Having a tutor provides a safe space for a student to ask questions and to gain a better understanding of their coursework and assignments. Great tutors want to help their students be self-sufficient and help students develop a thought-process to problem solving. Over time your growing confidence can result not only in better test performance but also in increased participation and creativity.

Having Empathy and Emotional Intelligence as a Tutor

Empathy and emotional intelligence are two fundamental skills that, if developed and fostered, can serve you for years to come in any profession. Having these traits can also be incredibly impactful to a student’s learning. Empathy is when you are able to sense and understand what another person is experiencing. Emotional intelligence (or EQ) is when you are able to recognize and regulate your own emotions in a positive framework, and you are also highly conscious of your own emotional state and understand how it affects others. Students can find themselves overwhelmed or frustrated with coursework leading to self-doubt, feelings of anxiety or demotivation. It’s common for students to lack proper emotional intelligence to deal with the stress of school which makes this all the more important. A great tutor learns the practice of empathy and social-emotional learning, providing students with the tools to overcome challenges and frustrations. Students will benefit from your companionship and from having a friend in learning.

Here are some tips to help you be more empathetic with your students:

  • Actively listen to what your students are saying: When you actively listen you are giving your students full undivided attention. Not only will the student feel what they are saying is being heard, but it also allows for you to try your best to offer help or clarification.
  • Give validation to their feelings: Allow students to feel frustrated. Reinforce with them that it’s normal to feel this way when learning, and offer advice on how to work through it.
  • Create an environment to discuss differences: Opening dialogue between you and your student is a great way to foster healthy EQ. If you are tutoring multiple students at once, allow time for each student to share their feedback and point of view. Conversations like this get students to speak openly and may create a difference in opinion. Students exposed to this sort of environment allows them to recognize and embrace the differences of others.

Build a Bond

Creating trust and rapport with a student will make your sessions more successful and more fun! Get to know one another’s interests, goals, family and social life. Simple steps like asking them how their weekend was, and listening to what gets them excited or peaks their interest, will go a long way. By building a more personal bond, students will look forward to attending tutoring sessions as a way to learn and socialize too. Where possible, building a similar rapport with parents can also help provide a more holistic, well-rounded support system for the student.

Stay Committed

Successful tutors are able to stay committed and remain a reliable companion for your student. It takes time to build a trusting relationship, so as a tutor you should be ready to commit at least 2 hours per week for a minimum of 6 months. Of course unexpected situations arise that might require a shift in tutoring sessions or time commitment, and in these instances open communication with the students and parents will help alleviate the stress that can come from change.

A successful tutor can have a huge impact both personally and academically for a student. You have the power to strike a passion for learning within the student and make them eager to learn more or take on new challenges. If you’re interested in becoming a tutor and making a difference in a student’s life, head on over to our website and apply today!

Written By: Irfan Jeddy

How Two Non-Profit Organizations Have Partnered to Turn Empathy Into Action

Permalink - Posted on 2021-05-12 17:58

At Pandemic Professors, we know that empathy is an essential part of learning, and we consider it a crucial part of our commitment to socio-emotional learning (SEL). It’s a skill we teach our students, as well as something we practice ourselves. COVID-19 has made the practice of empathy more important than ever, and we are always on the lookout for new ways to implement it as a core practice.

Why Empathy

Empathy allows us to understand and have compassion for others. It is the foundation for building healthy relationships, whether it be with family, friends, colleagues or neighbors. Research suggests that empathic people tend to be more generous and concerned with others’ welfare, and they also tend to have happier relationships and greater personal well-being. But research also suggests that people differ in the extent to which they experience empathy. So how empathic are you?

Take this quiz to help you find out.

It is empathy that compels us to help others in a time of need. Empathy has the power to give hope to those who feel hopeless or company to those who feel lonely. It’s what makes us human and gives us a chance to connect with one another and embrace our differences from race to gender to socio-economic circumstances.

Empathy is also essential to fostering a sustainable environment within our organization. Our staff is made up of volunteers, and practicing empathy prevents burnout and helps us grow together.

About our Partner

The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy is a leader of the global empathy movement. They started out with a mission to spread empathy across the world. Their goal has been to reach out to communities all over and spread the message of empathy and care. They do this in a number of ways, such as:

  • Curating and organizing pertinent materials
  • Providing free online empathy training courses and academic empathy training literature
  • Hosting Empathy Circles and holding public activist Tent Pop-ups

By working with the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy, we will be able to offer our tutors and staff dedicated training to help them practice empathy and teach those skills to others. This training will improve the services that our tutors and staff provide to low-income families and will also foster a sense of community across our organization. The first round of tutors and staff to join CBCE trainings are already implementing their new empathy skills here at Pandemic Professors and beyond. Here’s what a few of them had to say:

“The Empathy Circle training has taught me so much about my own conversational habits and shortcomings. Through the training, I’ve honed my ability to quiet my inner voice and fully hear another person’s story. I’ve taken what I’ve learned and strengthened the relationships in my personal life. On top of that, I’ve had the privilege of meeting other like-minded trainers and trainees and fostering genuine connections with them.”
-Dominic, Pandemic Professors tutor
“Empathy is an incredibly important part of our interaction and communication as humans. In this training, not only do we learn to be more empathetic communicators ourselves, but we also learn how to foster that empathy in others, and bring the practice into our day to day lives.”
-Bee, Pandemic Professors staffer
“I’m so glad I chose to participate in this training. I’ve had the opportunity to connect deeply with fellow PanProf volunteers who also value empathy. Hosting my own empathy circles also allows me to virtually bring together friends of mine from across the country who’ve never met, and seeing them get to know each other has been touching.”
-Elizabeth, Pandemic Professors staffer
“Coming across the Center and their empathy training was a life changing experience! I originally started in this practice because of a sort of vague desire to listen better but I’ve seen so many benefits over time in all of my relationships, even in professional spaces like PanProf.”
-Alissa Stover, Director of Operations at Pandemic Professors

Turning Empathy into Action

Well, simply put we know how important it is for people to be empathetic in our ever-changing world today. We want to stand behind that statement not just outwardly to our community, but to foster that journey from within across our tutors, staff and all of our volunteers. We are so pleased to join efforts with the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy and look forward to seeing the continuous improvements we can make in supporting our students in need.

Your ongoing support helps us offer these unique opportunities to our community and we are very grateful. At Pandemic Professors, we emphasize a holistic approach; training like this helps prepare our tutors and staff to carry that approach throughout our organization. Your donations also help us to provide our students with 1:1 tutors and the software they need to be successful. You provide us with the resources to turn empathy into action.

If you’d like to support us in our mission to provide free online tutoring to under-resourced students, please visit us at pandemicprofessors.org/donate.

Written By: Irfan Jeddy

Let’s Talk About Financial Literacy

Permalink - Posted on 2021-05-03 20:05

Here at Pandemic Professors we know just how important financial literacy is. So many people, of all ages, can lack the foundational skills needed for successful and effective financial management. As a result, we believe our free tutoring services should extend beyond the standard subjects like English, math and science. To date we have hosted two Financial Literacy workshops geared towards high school and college grade students, focused on Personal Finance and Investing. Due to their success, we are extending our curriculum with a 5-week series geared towards Grades 6–8!

The Importance of Financial Literacy

Kids build awareness for money very early in life, but this does not always translate to the skills they will need to manage money effectively. Financially literacy helps students learn key skills, including math, as well as concepts like credit scores, paying off or avoiding debt, and understanding how transactions work. Financial literacy lays the groundwork to help students make responsible financial decisions.

Reports show that 86% of Americans believe financial literacy classes should be a mandatory part of K-12 education, but unfortunately, many students still lack the opportunity to take these classes in school. This gap in education has significant consequences. A 2018 study found that 53% of adults in the US said thinking about their financial situation made them anxious. At Pandemic Professors, we are working to bridge this gap. Improving financial literacy education will allow students, and their parents or guardians, the tools they need to be successful and to feel confident managing their finances.

And if those are not reason enough, the statistics are staggering. More than 20% of renters ages 18 to 24 overspend their income by $100 or more on a monthly basis. In addition, people born between 1980 and 1984 carry, on average, $5,689 more credit card debt than their parents did at their age. People in this age range are also paying off their debt at a dramatically lower rate than their parents did, meaning that many of these young people will never pay off their credit card debt.

Our Host

Mark Bartley will be leading the workshops. He has a Bachelor of Science in Finance and over 20 years of experience in insurance and financial services. He currently works with State Farm. We are so grateful to Mark for offering his expertise and time to host these free courses.

What To Expect

Students can expect to participate in weekly sessions over a five-week period. Classes will be geared towards Grades 6–8. Each class will be held at 3:30pm PST / 6:30pm ET, and will organized as follows:

  • Week 1: Thursday May 13, EARNING
  • Week 2: Tuesday May 18, SAVING
  • Week 3: Thursday May 20, SPENDING
  • Week 4: Thursday June 3, CREDIT
  • Week 5: Thursday June 10, PROTECTING

Students can expect to learn the ins-and-outs of each topic, and will take part in interactive activities and Q&A sessions with Mark. Families are also welcome to attend these sessions and students are not required to be in grades 6–8 to attend. The first session is coming up and begins on May 13th. To register, or if you know someone who might benefit from our workshop, please visit tinyurl.com/panprof-finlit

Written By: Irfan Jeddy