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Tutor Spotlight: Jalen Gilmore

August 7, 2020

Jalen has been a Heart tutor for 3 years, most recently at Bruns Academy. He spoke with us about his tutoring experience!

Q: How did you get involved with Heart Tutoring?

Jalen: At the time I was working at US Bank, and there was a United Way-sponsored event where local nonprofits were trying to find volunteers. The one that appealed to me most was Heart Tutoring. I’ve always liked working with kids; I was an AAU basketball coach in the past and really enjoyed that. Seeing how individuals have shaped my future made me want to do that for the next generation.

Q: Outside of math, what do you talk about with your student(s)?

J: We talk about how life is going, which is fun because they’re younger, so life is always great. We also talk about their interests. For example, one of my students likes Pokémon, so we talk about that sometimes.

Q: Outside of math, how have you seen your students grow/change/learn/develop?

J: I’ve seen them become more open to advice. I think when you first start your relationship with your student, they always try to be perfect which makes them very tense. It’s great seeing them work and become more confident, finding out ways to solve the problems on their own, figuring out ‘Okay, what’s the best way to do this?’. They become more open and receptive to feedback.

Q: Describe an “a-ha” moment with one of your students.

J: One of my students likes using their fingers to count, and in every tutoring session I kept telling them that using the ten frame would be easier and could save time, but they preferred using their fingers. Finally, they tried the ten frame and said, “Oh wow, it is easier!”

Q: What is your favorite or the most rewarding part of being a tutor?

J: Just knowing that in that 30 minutes, I’m actually helping someone grow. You make a little progress every time, and by the end of the year it makes a big difference. I’m just happy that I am helping to make that difference.

Q: Is there anything that you didn’t expect/surprised you about being a tutor?

J: How effective the Heart curriculum actually is. I was expecting a little more of a challenge getting the concepts across to students, but the curriculum is set up in a simplistic way so even if the concept is complex, my kids can pick it up right away.

Q: Is there anything you wish you had known when you first started tutoring?

J: I wish I knew how much it affects kids if you miss one of their sessions! It messes with their schedule and they definitely notice if you’re not there, so it’s important to prioritize tutoring sessions and maintaining that schedule.

Q: As a young professional working full time, how do you balance tutoring with your schedule?

J: There are multiple locations and times so you can either tutor on your lunch break, or you can go in the morning before work. I find it harder to balance at lunch because during the day I don’t know what’s going to come up and may not be able to maneuver my schedule. So, I tutor in the mornings to make it work.

Q: How does your tutor experience impact other parts of your life?

J: Overall, it makes me happier. Work can be stressful and having that hour every week where I can go sit down with my students and get out of that work mode is extremely helpful.

Q: How has the support from Heart and the Program Coordinators impacted your experience?

J: It’s definitely helpful. Any time you’re struggling to explain a concept in a way the student can understand, the coordinator is always there and ready to explain it in another way. It takes away the stress of feeling like you have to explain it properly, because there is always someone to support you.

Q: What would you say to someone who says…

I am no good at math…

Trust me, you don’t need calculus, or even pre-algebra to do this. This is a tutoring system everyone can do.

I am no good with kids…

All the kids I’ve worked with are great. They’re all respectful and want to learn. So, if that’s your hesitation, you shouldn’t worry.

I don’t have time in my schedule…

30 minutes isn’t a lot of time, it’s the amount of time you spend on your lunch break or a quick phone call. You can definitely take 30 minutes to do this once a week. And if something should come up, Heart is more than receptive to working with your schedule.

Q: Anything else you want the world to know about Heart?

J: This is a really extraordinary program. For the amount of input you put in every week, the output of growth in these students is exponential. That really means a lot to me. These kids actually do look up to you as role models, and they’re excited to see you every week. Even though you’re just spending 30 minutes with each student, it does play a large role in their lives and you can see it.

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