“For me as a single professional mother, having the support of a tutor on Monday set the tone for the week and helped me parent better! I was easier on myself knowing that having the support of BPIE was a strength and not an area that I, as a mom, was falling short.” – Danubia, BPS parent
School year 2020-21 was a challenging one for all – but we learned some important things we’ll take with us beyond the pandemic. One bright spot was the opportunity to connect with students’ families in ways we hadn’t before. Through our new Independent Learning Support (ILS) model, families were able to directly nominate students for our mentoring services for the first time. In this pilot model, over 100 students were matched with online mentors at the dates and times they could most benefit from support.
One of those students was Aaliyah, a fifth-grader at the Ohrenberger School. We recently sat down with her mother Danubia – a full-time working mom who nominated Aaliyah for ILS. Danubia explains the challenges of working from home while her daughter was just down the hall learning remotely. To be so close in proximity but unable to jump in to help Aaliyah during the day was difficult for Danubia – but support from an ILS mentor helped them both feel more confident in Aaliyah’s learning. Here’s what Danubia had to say about the ILS program.
BPIE: As the parent of a BPS student, what was your experience with our new Independent Learning Support program?
Danubia: It’s been a great experience. Scott [Aaliyah’s mentor] was so engaging. He was so kind and Aaliyah looked forward to the time with him every week. If she wasn’t quite sure about some things that the teacher said, the sessions were always something that she could rely on. I think the reliability of Scott was just what she looked forward to – and he was fun!
What does an ILS mentoring session look like?
There are two people in the call – the mentor and the proctor. They always showed up and they were very flexible. Sometimes students get a snack or go to the restroom, or whatever it is and they’re very flexible around that. Aaliyah was actually a little bit disappointed that her recent meeting was the last one. She was like, “What do you mean? I won’t see you again?”
Does Aaliyah sign on and do everything herself or do you have to get her started?
Well, she has to because I’m always in work meetings. She actually has a little calendar, and her links are there, so that way she’s able to log in herself. I had to teach her to use the calendar because otherwise she wouldn’t show up to things. Either she’s in a meeting or I am, and when in meetings I can’t go help her.
You mentioned earlier that it was the support of the mentor that set the tone for your child’s week?
For me, it was just that assurance – I was like, “oh my goodness, she has so many questions and I can’t get to her!” But then she would get her answers or whatever it was that she needed from Scott, which she would get excited about the rest of the week. When she met with Scott again, she had things to report. I wish I was there but I couldn’t be – I had to work, I had to feed her, I had to be a mom and the breadwinner, and I could not be the teacher that I wanted to be. So that helped me be a better parent because there was this one person that could do that job. So it felt like it was a burden lifted.
“I feel that there are some positive things about 2020 that we should move forward with, like these connections – even though they are online, they are real.” – Danubia, BPS parent
What would you say to other parents about our Independent Learning Support program?
I would say sometimes our children just need a person to teach them a different way – so give it a chance. Even if it’s not about their academics and it’s just connecting with another individual – someone that’s funny, engaging, and curious. Sometimes all a child needs is somebody who is curious. To ask, “How was your day?” or “Can you tell me how you learned this?” Children just need a person to ask the right question, so they can actually stumble upon their own answers. They are able to help the child connect those dots on their own.
Another thing I would say to a parent is that you don’t want to see this tutoring opportunity as another thing for you to do, but instead as an asset to what is being placed upon us by a system. This is how we’re able to leverage and allow our children to have a positive learning experience. Now you have this person, one-on-one, paying attention and being curious about your child. For students to have that is really important and to know that it’s somebody who truly cares about you – even if it’s just for 60 minutes.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about Aaliyah’s experience or your experience as a parent with this program?
Knowing the leadership of an organization helps me understand the quality of the work and how you expect your staff to treat everyone. I wish that more parents knew of the amazing work that BPIE does, understood the investment placed in it, and were eager to sign their child up. I explained to Aaliyah that this is volunteering for Scott and the only goal here is for her to have better days in school. Having that conversation with her earlier was really important. Because otherwise, it’s just another meeting and they’re already exhausted.
I also want to say to parents that it’s okay to ask for help. One of the things you have to do is to break down that stigma. If your child is experiencing a challenge with school, for you to ask for help and advocate for your child does not make your child less-than. Advocating for your child makes you a strong person and it makes your child strong because we all learn differently. Unfortunately, the system was designed for one-size-fits-all and there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all. If we as parents are proud and excited about the fact that our children are different – because being different is beautiful – then we’re able to break down that stigma and ask for help.
BPIE is thrilled to announce that our ILS program will be continuing in the next school year. We’re excited to continue providing students with virtual support outside of class time. If you’d like to request support for your student again in the 2021-22 school year, our nomination form will be sent out in September.
If you have any questions related to ILS, please reach out to Claire Hammer, ILS Partnerships Manager, at [email protected].