Changes to come to NHS tutoring

Absent students, overworked tutors, language barriers; these are just some of the problems faced by the National Honor Society’s peer tutoring system, despite it having operated at FCHS for more than twenty years.   

The NHS tutoring system is a huge operation, which requires many people in order to function. The tutoring force is made up of the 157 student NHS members, but there are also students who handle the logistics of the system: runners, who deliver passes to tutors, checkers, who ensure tutors are completing their assignments, and the tutoring chairs, who match tutors with their tutees. These jobs are all essential to ensure that the system runs smoothly. However, with NHS tutoring, issues can arise as soon as a tutor meets their tutee; that is, if they have the privilege to. 

The recent switch to the Intervention system has been the biggest issue for the NHS tutoring system, simply because of the way it works. The purpose of Intervention is not for students to stay in their classrooms; students are meant to leave, and meet with their teachers for extra help. However, the NHS tutoring system relies on students being in their Advisory classrooms, ready to meet with their tutors during Intervention. This contradiction often leads to tutors going to their tutee’s classroom, only to find that they have left to meet with a different teacher. Because of this, of the 25-35 students sent to tutor every intervention block, 10 of them are usually unable to. With so much energy being seemingly wasted, many are curious why the system has not been changed to address this issue.  

“There are definitely plans to make things work better, and more smoothly,” said physics teacher and NHS faculty sponsor Jennifer Sokol. Ms. Sokol plays a large part in the planning and logistics of the NHS tutoring system, along with two student tutoring chairs. These plans, while early in discussion, include the implementation of a tutoring schedule being given out in advance, which would address common complaints from both tutors and tutees that not enough notice is given before tutoring. Under the current system, a tutor is given notification that they have been assigned for a tutoring session the morning of, and while tutees can sign up for tutoring on specific days of the week, they do not receive any advanced notice of a tutoring session once it is scheduled. This has been a more prominent problem recently, as there has been a drop in students voluntarily signing themselves up, and a spike in students being signed up by their teachers or guidance counselors. 

Part of the decrease in students signing themselves up for tutoring is a lack of awareness that the system exists, because it came to a halt during the 2020-2021 school year. However, another driving factor is reluctance, which leads to the second biggest obstacle keeping one-third of tutors from completing their assignments. 

“Another big issue is students who continuously decline,” said Ms. Sokol. When a student declines tutoring, it means that they are in their classroom, but when their tutor comes to meet, they refuse to be tutored. Sometimes, students have caught up in their classes, and no longer need tutoring; other times, students need tutoring, but are nonetheless reluctant. It is important to note that tutees are not the only ones with grievances against the system; many tutors are unenthusiastic about participating as well. 

“I have all these people who want to [tutor] English, but I need them to do algebra two,” said Rania Ashoor (12), one of the NHS tutoring chairs. It is assumed that all NHS members can tutor in algebra and geometry, and while all members have taken these classes, not all of them feel their skills are sufficient enough to tutor. This leads to increased reluctance from tutors, but also takes away from the effectiveness of the entire tutoring process. In addition to insufficiency in the subjects they are tutoring, many tutors feel their tutoring skills themselves are lacking, because NHS members receive no instruction or training on how to tutor. 

Language barriers also present difficulties in the tutoring process. One-third to half of requests for tutoring are from ESOL students, and there are not enough Spanish speakers in NHS to address all of these requests. However, while this can make the process more difficult, it has a silver lining; along with allowing ESOL students a chance to talk to students who are fluent in English, it can also benefit NHS members.

“The language barrier [is] a little bit difficult,” said Nicole Hogge (11), a student officer for NHS, “but it allows me to get new experiences, and get out of my comfort zone”

Despite these problems on both the sides of the tutors and the tutees, the NHS tutoring system is not declining. Even though many students don’t know about the system in order to request tutoring, the increase in guidance counselors and teachers signing their students up for tutoring has caused the system to be hit harder by requests than ever in recent weeks. 

“Right now, there’s a ton of students, and very little tutors,” said Rania. Many students have had to tutor every week, with some even being called twice a week, adding to the already immense stress on the system. However, these problems are not going unaddressed; while it may take several years, Ms. Sokol is working with administration, as well as the NHS officers and tutoring chairs, to build a better NHS tutoring program. 

“We’re trying to work as well as we can with all of our members,” said Nicole, “and work out some of the kinks in the system.”