A Loosely Formed Idea

This is a very loosely formed idea, and I’m not sure we have the capacity for it, but help me think it through / poke holes in it. It’s coming out of three things:

• This fall, however school works out, there’s clearly going to be a need for additional tutoring support for various students, especially those with IEPs, in marginalized communities, etc.

• My 501(c)3 non-profit (the SLF) is a literary org, and we’re hoping to develop the Portolan Project further in the coming year, providing free online creative writing (and lit?) instruction.

• There are a lot of college students who will be learning asynchronously this fall, or have time between synchronous classes, and there are also PTOs and others with free time they want to devote to children’s education

Would it be possible / reasonable for the SLF to foster a volunteer corps of reading / writing / literature tutors for the fall, to help kids whose families can’t provide as much support at home as would be ideal?

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What are the pitfalls you see in this plan?

– for one, since it’d be happening virtually, there wouldn’t be the same need to vet for in-person risk to kids, but I assume there’d still be some sort of process we’d need to go through with the state for vetting our volunteers

– I wouldn’t have the time to really organize this project, but I could be part of a team, and I can think of a few people already who might be excellent. We’d probably hire a part-time person to administer the project directly.

– would this only be available to those who couldn’t afford to hire tutors? I could imagine a double-pronged approach, perhaps, where we offered both free tutoring to families in need, and facilitated paid tutoring (perhaps negotiated directly between the tutor and the family, so we didn’t have to deal with money at all) for those who could afford it

– what do the tutors get out of it? Well, for college students affiliated with UIC, we can possibly do it as an internship for the fall. Affiliated with other schools, an internship exchange might be worked out; I’m talking to someone at Triton about that now. And for those not in school, we’d be offering a structure to help them organize their desire to volunteer and help out

– other issues / concerns?

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I’ll add a personal note to this — I was visiting home from college one year, and one of my aunts asked me if I could try tutoring her kid (and this was so long ago, I can’t remember which kid it was) who was having trouble learning to read. And this sounds sort of miraculous, but honestly, I remember spending maybe two hours doing basic phonics work with the kid, sounding words out, and apparently that two hours of individual attention was enough to help them turn the corner — my aunt swore I taught the kid to read. I do think a little individualized attention can sometimes make a huge difference.

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