Student tutors help peers stay on track

Zoom Room encourages study boom

Tutor Ta’Rajah Collier, left, helps a classmate study vocabulary words

It’s 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. For a few dozen fourth- and fifth-graders at Southeast Elementary, that means it’s time to zoom down the hall to Carrie Zeigler’s room: Zoom Room.

Named for its goal to help students who have fallen behind in their work to zoom ahead and catch up through extra study time and one-on-one tutoring, Zoom Room replaces afternoon recess for attendees. If you think that makes it an unpopular destination, think again.

Fifth-grader Victor Rogers completes a daily language practice assignment

“I like that I can actually get work done here. No one’s bothering me,” said Eman Marasigan, a fifth-grader who came to the room to work on  vocabulary words.

“I like coming here to help other children,” said fourth-grader Joel Mubake, one of 16 student tutors who rotate through the hybrid study hall-tutor lab.

Zooming In

Students come to Zoom Room for a variety of reasons: some need time to finish an assignment; others are referred by a teacher to work on a subject that needs improvement. A rocket-shaped pass from a teacher is required for admittance.

The student tutors line up by the door and wait for students. Adriana Gilbreath, a tutor, said there are two questions they ask attendees: “Do you need help? Are you here to finish some work?”

Carrie Zeigler checks on fourth-grader Carmani Michele’s work

If they do not require a tutor, students find a quiet spot on the floor or at a desk and get working. If they do need some help, they pair off with a tutor who understands the topic at hand.

Tutors must be good students, but Zeigler requires a little extra from them: each student filled out an application, provided two references, and committed to tutoring two Thursdays a month in Zoom Room.

“I wanted responsible kids who understood that this was going to be a time commitment,” said Zeigler. So far, she’s had no shortage of tutors. Some of them come every week.

The students have Zoom Room under control: There are usually 20 to 30 students in the room, and Zeigler said she’s never witnessed a behavioral issue or has had to step in to tutor students.

“When they’re done, they can leave. Everyone is on task. It runs very smoothly,” she said.

Tutor Joel Mubake, fourth grade, waits at the door to greet a student in need of help

Kids Helping Kids

Zeigler said Zoom Room has been a great opportunity for tutors to work on their interpersonal skills and make use of their knowledge in a variety of subjects. And of course, it helps struggling students make up ground.

“A lot of kids just need a chance to feel successful,” said Zeigler. “Many kids are unfortunately functioning at the low level of their grade. And there are a lot of kids who are gifted, and they weren’t getting anything extra. I thought, ‘What’s a way for them to feel successful and also benefit these other kids?’”

By all measures, Zoom Room has been a success.

“I can tell a kid how to divide eight times in eight different ways — and they’re just not getting it,” said Zeigler. “But another student, a peer, can tell them and there’s a light bulb, because they speak the same language.”

Zeigler said teachers tell her that students look forward to Thursday afternoons so they can get some extra help. She’s considering adding another session during the week to meet the demand.

“They’re so encouraging to each other,” she said of the students.

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Bridie Bereza
Bridie Bereza hails from Lansing and has worked in the Grand Rapids area as a reporter, freelance writer, and communicator since graduating from Aquinas College in 2003. She feels privileged to cover West Michigan's public schools and hopes to shed a little light on the amazing things happening there through her reporting. Read Bridie's full bio or email Bridie.

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