Mentor Spotlight: Math Rules! Academic Mentor Ibrahim Aly
National Volunteer Week is the perfect time to celebrate our academic mentors for their dedication to ensuring that Boston Public Schools students receive the support they need to succeed. Our Math Rules! volunteer Ibrahim Aly, who goes by Abe, has been visiting the Orchard Gardens K-8 school for nearly two years to help tutor a small group of students in math during class time. His students eagerly await his presence in their classroom each week, and smile widely when he enters the room and passes them out the day’s classwork.
This year’s group of students has highlighted for Abe why he feels his work as a volunteer is necessary. “I’ve always been tutoring. I like teaching. I came here when I was very young, and I was already so far in front of everyone else in math growing up. And I kind of hate the fact that the US in general is behind in math compared to 3rd world countries.”
Abe explains that some of his students are behind in some subjects, because curriculum standards have forced them to move forward with more complex material before they had a grasp on the basics. All of his students, like him, are immigrants and some of them were behind the curve coming into the school. Abe sees his role in the classroom as someone who has more freedom than the teacher does in how he uses his time with the kids.
“Definitely they’re getting a lot more explaining. Because I won’t just finish a problem where [the teacher] has to. [The teacher] has no choice but to move on, but I’ll give them homework. I’ll go back and revisit an issue. I’ll definitely go back and make sure they are understanding it a little bit more.”
Abe is driven by the knowledge that one day his students will participate in the work force, and he wants to make sure they have the capabilities to do their work well. Often, he stays a little longer each lesson to make sure that he is making as much of an impact as possible.
“So for me, the fact that I’m actually doing something to change something that bothers me makes me feel good. Even though maybe I’m not making as big of a difference as I want to. Like I can’t go teach a classroom, right? And even the teachers are overwhelmed. So if I can make a difference for 4 or 5 kids a year, I’ll take that.”