Meet the tutor – Read to Learn
The Order of Malta and Australian Catholic University (ACU) Community Hub in Melbourne run a Read to Learn program in partnership with Preston North East Primary School. Read to Learn aims to support primary school children from culturally and linguistically diverse and refugee backgrounds, who have also been identified as requiring additional support to develop their reading and literacy skills.
Read to Learn involves one-on-one tutoring during weekly sessions during school Term. At Preston North East Primary School more than 50% of the parents speak English as a second language with many reportedly struggling to help their children complete reading and homework tasks. Currently there are 15 primary school students in the program with many more students on the waiting list, with the main issue limiting the projects expansion is the number of tutors available. The group of tutors are made up of members and volunteers of the Order of Malta and ACU students as part of their course requirements.
We speak with Order of Malta member, Keiron Long about his experiences as a Read to Learn tutor:
Q: Keiron, tell us about the students you tutor in the program?
A: The program assigns one tutor per student. The idea is to build a rapport with the student and come to understand their learning needs. Let’s call my Year 3 student “Francesca.” I told Francesca the meaning of her (beautiful) name in Italian and we google searched her Italian surname and found a town with the same name and then we explored the town on google photos. We did the same with her mother’s English name.
Francesca lives with her grandparents. She finds it hard to concentrate for very long so in between working on a writing or reading exercise we would talk about her favourite apps, and she would tell me the things she liked most about each App. When Francesca was reading to me, I would explain the meaning of difficult words as we went along and answer any questions.
Q: What impact did you see on the student during the first term of the program?
A: The one-on-one relationship with a student provides another adult support, even if ever so briefly, to children who in some instances go home to dislocated family environments. Also, in a school class of twenty plus students, individuals rarely have the full attention of the teacher. This is something which the tutoring program provides. I suspect that in the limited time we have each week the positive affirmation we give to the students is far more important than the learning experience.
Q: What do you think the students and their parents/guardians think of the program?
A: Francesca was happy to be part of the program and wanted to continue when the semester was finished. The other students also seemed keen to continue with the program. Francesca’s Nonna was pleased with the time we were giving to her grandchild and offered her thanks on the last day.
Q: What impact has the project had on you as a volunteer (and others if you have any insight)?
A: The program reinforced how important a friendly and supportive environment is if students are to fully embrace any learning opportunities so as to reach their full potential, especially given many students have hurdles to overcome, such as language or family instability.
Q: Did anything in surprise you about the student, program or volunteers?
A: I was surprised by how receptive the students were once the program was up and running. The ACU university student volunteers also embraced the program and built up a good rapport with students.
Q: What would you say to anyone considering becoming a Read to Learn tutor?
A: Grandparents would find it easy as they only need to treat the students as they do their grandchildren. I think anyone who joined the program would find it rewarding because they would quickly build a bond with their student. However, I think it important to see yourself as a mentor more than a tutor and be willing to be flexible and occasionally wander down lanes that the student may wish to explore.
Volunteer positions are now open for semester 2, running from Monday 14 August and runs till Monday 30 October. Session times are 3.15 till 4.45 at Preston North East Primary School. If you are interested in volunteering email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Order of Malta and ACU Community Hub rely on the generosity of donors to continue serving the Melbourne community. Gifts of $2 and more are tax deductible for Australian taxpayers and can be made using our secure online donation facility.