I can’t remember exactly what year I first volunteered. I don’t think 826NYC was very old at the time. A small but redoubtable person named Miriam was in charge of the drop-in center. I’ve been captaining a table on Tuesday afternoons ever since.
At the time I first volunteered I was trying to write a novel that wasn’t going anywhere, so I decided to add something to my life that actually produced results. If I had lived in Vermont, where I come from, that might have involved working with Habitat for Humanity, or building an elaborate tree house, but here in Brooklyn after-school tutoring seemed perfect.
The easiest and most enjoyable thing about volunteering at 826 is working with students who love writing and want my input. But the most rewarding moments for me are the times I can help reluctant students engage with their assignments, no matter if it takes most of the session to get there. It’s amazing how people’s moods improve when they’ve put those two pages of math problems behind them.
I used to work in construction and then I switched to raising children for about twenty years. Now my children are in college and graduate school, and I have no desire to go back to the noise and dust of construction. I’m writing again – poetry this time. I find it’s easier to finish a poem than a novel. Go figure. I guess you could say I’m retired, though I don’t think writers ever really retire. There’s always some little voice in your head saying, “Get back to work!”
To new tutors I would say keep up with the current methods of doing arithmetic. That’s one of the more difficult things for me. Keep a sense of humor. And don’t be shy about asking for help. It’s rare that I see a tutor, new or veteran, that I don’t think could teach me a lot about teaching children.
Among my superpowers is my amazing ability to communicate with my dog. She even comes when I call. About half the time.