Edited using Picsart
In the fall of 2019, the National Honor Society was embarking on their newest journey, the Academic Success Center in the library, a space for students to receive tutoring from NHS members in any of FHC’s many diverse classes. At the same time, then junior Sukhpreet Singh was embarking on his newest journey: being inducted into the National Honor Society.
Now, one monumental year later, Sukhpreet is working in tandem with the Academic Success Center, and so much has changed, both inside and outside of the NHS world. As he commences his senior year on the NHS board, overseeing the tutoring division, he is facing obstacles that none of his predecessors ever have, and facing them with an admirable determination to live out the spirit of NHS.
“I love being a part of NHS because of the whole community aspect of it,” Sukhpreet said. “We’re here to help in any way possible, both our school and our community. I love having the opportunity to do that on a bigger platform, and I can reach out to a lot of other people and get things going. So there’s a lot of outlets and benefits of being in NHS, and that’s what’s been very special to me.”
Overseeing the Academic Success Center is one of these opportunities that Sukhpreet has found to benefit the school’s community. However, this year the restrictions imposed upon the school in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have made the ASC as it stood a non-viable option.
But Sukhpreet and his NHS companions weren’t willing to simply give up. In their weekly Friday meetings, they came to a decision: the Academic Success Center would have to be transitioned to the virtual arena.
Sukhpreet worked alongside Assistant Principal John DeStefano and NHS advisor Patricia Richardson to set this plan into motion. They overcame struggles involving conducting and scheduling tutoring sessions—settling on using Google Meets and the school booking site that has previously been used to schedule parent-teacher conferences—and contacting NHS members who possessed an interest in tutoring online. But once the knots were worked out, it was unanimously worth it to provide students with this constructive resource.
“With the changes necessary for social distancing and the inability of students staying after with teachers, it was important to have a mechanism for students to get the help they needed,” Richardson explained. “All students have questions on homework at some point, and this provides a way for students to ask quick questions and stay on the correct track of understanding rather than struggling on their own or making mistakes and practicing the wrong way.”
So far, having kicked off the virtual ASC only a couple weeks ago, it’s doing exactly what its creators had hoped it would. While tutoring is a bit slow so far, which is to be expected towards the beginning of the school year, the students who are joining virtual meetings are exactly the ones that the NHS team had intended to to reach.
Sukhpreet, as an Algebra 2 tutor, has already worked with a student who was required to quarantine for an extended period of time. Together, they were able to ease some of the stress and struggles that accompanied missing classroom instruction.
Sukhpreet is proud of the students he’s tutored and will tutor—proud of them for pursuing the help they needed during a school year that has left many students floundering.
“All the students that I’ve tutored have definitely benefited from it,” Sukhpreet said. “And, me personally, I even ask people for help, so there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. I think we’re trying to promote that attitude, and hopefully the students can take advantage of that and the opportunities that we’re trying to provide.”
This system, as Sukhpreet perceives it, is productive, safe, and user-friendly. His tutoring sessions have progressed without a hitch, albeit starkly different from tutoring of years past.
Both Sukhpreet and Richardson have acknowledged, though, that–as with anything–the virtual Academic Success Center does bear its pitfalls. Most obviously, forming a connection through a computer screen is simply not the same as forming a connection in person. Now, students and tutors have to rely on more verbal communication than being able to share papers and visually approach problems.
“The biggest difference [from last year] is less of a personal connection,” Richardson. “It’s more beneficial since students can tutor or receive tutoring from any location, but it’s less beneficial since they are not looking at the same documents or in the same space it is a little harder to know what mistakes are being made.”
Yet, the positives far outweigh these unavoidable negatives. As Richardson mentioned, online tutoring offers the possibility for tutoring to occur at unconventional times or in unconventional places. Students aren’t constrained by the timing of activities or transportation complications; the virtual Academic Success Center actually opens the door for even more students to partake in tutoring.
“I think this way is great,” Sukhpreet said, “especially during this time where students might have to quarantine; they can just go online and get help instead of having to come in person. The great benefitting factor of this is that you can do it wherever you want and whenever, and it’s not restricted to a place or time.”
This flexibility is also favoring NHS members who weren’t able to volunteer in the Academic Success Center last year.
As a part-time nanny with a busy schedule, senior Julia Beaumont simply couldn’t squeeze the ACS into her itinerary as it stood last year, and once school shut down in March, her chance was completely taken away.
When she received the news of the Academic Success Center’s revised form, she eagerly hopped on the opportunity to contribute. Tutoring doesn’t just fulfill NHS requirements for Julia; it also provides experience for her prospective career path of teaching.
Julia is the only tutor who focuses in French, alongside many other subjects, so she’s been promoting her name in the French classroom, hoping to offer younger students the support she would’ve appreciated in her preliminary years of learning the language. She was pleasantly surprised when, on just the second day of tutoring, a French student popped in seeking some help bringing her grades up.
But many students face a stigma that surrounds tutoring and holds them back from accepting the help that may strengthen their academic prowess. Julia opposes these preconceived notions; she’s a vehement advocate for tutoring.
In no way does she believe tutoring is a marker for a student’s intelligence or exerted effort. Especially this year, with the unorthodox style of learning and the unpredictability of every minute, she wants tutoring to be normalized.
Additionally, Julia considers the experience of tutoring with another student to be entirely unique from receiving extra help from a teacher.
“If someone is in contact with a peer versus someone who is superior to them, like a teacher,” Julia said, “sometimes things are taught in a more relatable way and in a way that is more personal and can connect to them. It sort of cements it into your mind and allows you to gain a different perspective that can better your learning of different topics.”
Julia empathizes with Sukhpreet as they both anticipate that as the school year picks up and word gets out, more students will take advantage of the opportunities the Academic Success Center provides.
Tutoring isn’t exactly the way it’s painted in many students’ minds, and what remains the same this year is that the National Honor Society’s tutors want to change the rhetoric on tutoring.
“I think that if we just keep marketing ourselves as someone who is there to help out and supplement in their learning, that’s good because it’s not always [that] you need another teacher,” Julia said. “Sometimes you just need someone to help you study with something—someone to help you go through flashcards because your mom or your sister isn’t able to go through flashcards with you, or you just need help catching up on one lesson.”
So as Julia sits before her computer during her tutoring slots, microphone on, ready to greet anyone who joins her Google Meet, she wants her fellow students to know one thing. Whatever they need, whatever complicated or exclusive academic problem they’re up against, the NHS students behind the Academic Success Center are there to help them solve it.
The Academic Success Center may take many forms, even this year alone, but what continues with consistency is its dedication to providing students with the human resources to succeed.
“I just want them to know that it’s a judgment free zone,” Julia said, “and you can ask any questions you’d like. We’re all open; all of the tutors are all open to doing whatever is best for the students. So if they just need someone to quiz them or catch them up on things or a very specific lesson in a very specific subject, we’re here for pretty much any of people’s needs. It’s not something to be ashamed of or embarrassed of.”