By: Kate O'Reilly, The Village Tutors
The way students learn can be as varied as their circumstances. From the beginning, The Village Tutors has embraced our commitment to support all learners in our corner of the world.
“We formed our company almost 20 years ago, recognizing that each student is unique,” said Suzanne Petree, founder, The Village Tutors. “We consider learning styles and backgrounds when creating personalized tutoring that helps students throughout our neighborhoods get the academic support they need.”
TVT partners with Green Halo Scholars
A dedication to the community led TVT to partner with Green Halo Scholars, a non-profit organization that helps high-achieving, first-generation and/or low-income high school seniors get to and through college.
Green Halo Scholars was formed in 2017 when the organization’s founders, Vandana Bahl and Sally Guglielmo, met while volunteering with a group that served Chicago youth.
“Our founders recognized a need in our own backyard to support young scholars,” said Sara Miller, director, Green Halo Scholars. “Out of that need, Green Halo was born.”
To date, Green Halo has assisted nearly 70 students, who -- based on their academic achievement -- are nominated by their school counselor to participate in the program. The Green Halo Class of 2022 includes 35 students from seven area high schools (Bolingbrook, Hinsdale Central, Hinsdale South, Lyons Township, Proviso East, Proviso West, and Proviso Math and Science Academy).
This year, Green Halo celebrated its first recipient of the highly selective QuestBridge National College Match Program. The Hinsdale South graduate will attend Colgate University on a fully funded scholarship. Recent Green Halo students were also admitted to more than 70 institutions and will be attending schools that include Howard University, Parson’s School of Art and Design, Purdue University and the University of Miami (FL).
According to Miller, Green Halo’s impact is also less quantifiable. “Our students are often unsure if college is a possibility for their families. As they work through the admissions process, they build confidence. It can’t be put into numbers, but helping our scholars expand their dreams is really something special.”
Focusing on the plan
TVT tutors Kate O’Reilly and Keith Friedman tag team to provide SAT test prep support to a Green Halo scholar who, at the age of 13, arrived in the United States knowing little English. It might be difficult to convince Kate that English isn’t the affable student’s first language, because she finds the high school senior to be quite curious -- and chatty.
“Every SAT reading section seems to unveil a new world to him,” Kate said. “A passage might be about guppies but, after answering a few of the test questions -- through sheer eagerness and enthusiasm -- he’ll connect the passage to his summer job or his new cell phone or something his mother told him.”
Kate and the student agreed on a plan: focus and finish all of the passages first, and then add time at the end to talk and catch up. The combination of the new approach and the scholar’s inherent drive has led to his making progress and gaining confidence in his test taking.
Meeting students where they are
TVT tutors meet Green Halo students where they are -- sometimes literally. Zoom is an unviable option for Kate and Keith’s scholar, and getting transportation to the Community House proves challenging. So Keith offers math SAT prep at the student’s neighborhood library, while Kate conducts her reading sessions at a McDonald’s within biking distance of the scholar’s home.
Tutor flexibility speaks to the importance TVT places on providing academic support to all learners.
“Most of our students at TVT come from well-off families and have had a top notch education,” Keith said. “For them, going to college is assumed. I’ve had to be reminded that that’s not always the case. So, it’s even more critical that we also support those families in our area that need it most.”
Giving back matters
Tutor Ann Wilson agrees with the importance of helping the community. She has supported Green Halo Scholars, including assisting one student, who subsequently was accepted into a Big 10 school of her choice, craft her college essay.
“TVT’s support of Green Halo matters because not all students can access or afford a tutor,” she said. “Our tutors are giving back in the best way they can when they partner with an organization like Green Halo. I am proud to be a part of this effort.”
So is Keith. And while he’s worked with students who weren’t born in the United States, they typically moved to this country when their parents had a job lined up.
“My Green Halo student came here because his family was escaping the horrors of war, and I have to keep in mind the challenges he’s had to overcome in getting his education,” Keith said. “I hope I’m helping him learn a few things that will improve his SAT score. After only a couple of sessions, I’m sure I’ve learned as much as he has.”
Like when you give back, you often get more back in return.
How to Encourage Flexible Thinking
Flexible thinking (or “cognitive flexibility” if you ask a doctor) is an incredibly useful executive function skill. It allows us to mentally pivot when we need to and problem solve with critical thinking. Seems simple enough, right? Problem is this is a learned skill – and some learn it more easily than others.
When a child has difficulty with flexible thinking, they often have trouble switching gears when necessary. They face challenges when finding different approaches to problems. They may become anxious or even angry if they can only see one possible solution to their problem – and that solution doesn’t bring resolution.
It is common for learners who struggle with flexible thinking to freeze up or simply do nothing when faced with a challenge. Or, perhaps they repeatedly try the same single strategy to overcome the challenge, even if it’s not working. Their thinking is often rigid and they can struggle with being able to move beyond the most basic way of doing something. Especially as we enter a new school year, still amidst a pandemic, when things continue to look and feel different, the benefits of flexible thinking make it a skill worth learning.
Flexible thinking will be a great benefit to all learners of every age! Here’s a few exercises you can use at home to help encourage flexible thinking:
If you’re looking for more ways to help your child boost their flexible thinking and executive function skills so they can be successful in their learning – come talk to The Village Tutors!