Back in the Swing of Things

After a week back home in West Virginia for spring break, I was excited to return as a tutor for ACH Clear Pathways. Though it was a much-needed break, I found myself wondering what the kids were up to while I was away. Thursday, the day I tutor, rolled around and I thought about the routine I had observed over the past weeks. Snacks and homework, then working on art projects, later dinner, and finally (if the weather permits), playing outside.

As I got back into my own routine at Duquesne, I thought about how important structure is for the kids at ACH Clear Pathways too.

First, snacks and homework. This is mostly where I come in. This Thursday, I worked with a student on math homework. It involved lots of counting out loud, encouragement, and breaks.

Next, art projects and dancing. As energetic Kidz Bop hits blasted throughout the cafeteria, students worked on art projects and danced in the middle of the room. Every once in a while, a student tapped my knee to show me his dance moves. And every time they were completely rad.

Finally, dinner and playing outside. When the weather is warm, many kids become a bit stir-crazy indoors. They were excited to migrate to the playground – some of them enough to ask me to take them outside, even though I don’t enforce the schedule. Here I had to be firm; the schedule was set and enforced by the staff. Until 5:15, they weren’t going outside. And asking me wasn’t going to change that.

With this, I learned that in some instances, words don’t help when kids are upset. A student became upset after I relayed the schedule, and nothing I said helped. Here, I learned again from another staff member. When words fail, distraction often helps. Distracting the student with more art projects until 5:15 calmed her down. By the time everyone was ready to go outside, the student’s attitude changed.

After some time as a tutor, I feel I understand the flow of ACH Clear Pathways’ schedule. Providing structure and a plan for a bunch of energetic kids seems to be a necessity. Keeping a routine and learning about adjustments has taught me about both structure and flexibility this week, which I think is vital when working with kids.

-Maggie Retton


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