We had the opportunity to chat with Angela about why education is important in a child's life. Angela is passionate about tutoring and believes in the power of taking the time to build rapport with her students.
Join the conversation below:
How has education changed your life and how has it changed your children's lives that you work with?
I've always been an inquisitive kid. I always wanted to know more and was constantly trying to educate myself. I have 3 masters and people always say, “why do you keep going for a master's?” Well, I was working for a university, and you can get it free. Why not take advantage of it? I just always want to learn. I try to tell the kids today, “if you don't know something, look it up. Find out. Don't you want to know?” It’s important to know things. Google it, find out, and try to research why this came about. So, education is important to me. My parents didn't graduate high school, but all of their children have graduated college and high school and we are all professionals. When parents see their children doing better than they are, they're proud of that. You don't always have to go to college, but if you're good at something, you can make as much money as anybody else, but you have to have some kind of skill. That's why I try to relate it to the kids. We're not saying go to college. Maybe your parents might want you to go to college, but I'm not always pushing college down kids' throats. You can go to trade school, pick up a skill you know, do something you love, and do it well. You can make a profession out of it.
What motivates you to tutor children in your community?
I find that there's a great need. There are so many kids that need tutoring and so many of them can't afford it. So, they have to go through special programs to do so. I even took the kids for free in the community. The parents were asking me, “you work in education, could you help them?” So, I did. I love to see when a kid gets it. You know, finally! So many kids are in need, and they don't have the avenue to find the [help] offered out there.
How does the work you do with The Sunshine Method connect to your own personal values?
Well, I believe in Sunshine. Being a tutor and mentor is building that rapport first with the kids, so it's not all about academics. It's about getting to know the kids. Sometimes the kids will come on and say, “I had a hard day,” so if they want to talk about that during the session and get it out, I'm okay with that. It's not all about working and doing academics, it's about understanding that child and making them feel safe so that they can tell you things that they probably can't discuss with others.
Can you describe the best experience you've had working with a child?
One of them was this child who is very hyper. He doesn't like to sit down. He would always come on zoom with a big thing going across the screen that said, ‘I hate this.’ You know, we would start the session every day. ‘I hate this.’ He's like, 'oh, why do we have to tutor? I hate this. My parents are making me tutor.' I tried to make it fun for him, so I would give him breaks throughout, something he preferred. A video game—we'll play a video game for five minutes with a timer. When time’s up, he'll go back to it and get into it so he can get his next five minutes. About after a month, he no longer needed the video games or the breaks, he just wanted to get through it and say, 'oh, you're making this fun!' I would choose topics he was interested in, and I would play videos on that topic. He started learning things and then after a while, he would say, 'how was your day? I missed you over the weekend.' Then I no longer saw the ‘I hate this’ across the screen. When his session time ended, he was like 'oh, I can't wait! I can't wait! How long is it gonna take [to resume]?' I said, 'I don't know, but hopefully I'll see you soon.' So, that makes me happy that I kind of changed their mind and made him get back into it.
What kind of long-term progress have you seen your child make?
Some of the progress is that they can read more fluently now. They're using the strategies I taught them. Like, 'look at that sentence, what could you infer from this?' They're tired of the pictures and are eager to read. My students are using all those skills that I taught them. It's becoming second nature now when they start reading instead of “I don't know this.” I keep reminding them that they must try. You'll be amazed at what you know when you try. So, that's been great to see the skills and the strategies I've taught them that they're actually using.
What role do you believe education plays in a child's life?
Well, education is important. You try to explain to them that the things they want to do in life, they have to know how to read. They ask, “what do we need to know algebra for? What do we need to know this for?” Then you explain that you need to know this if they want to be a doctor or anesthesiologist. You need to know how much medicine you're giving patients. You need to know all these things and how biology, science, and all these things take part in what they want to do. Once you explain that, they get it. I will try to explain that the basics you learn will become second nature. You won't need to think about it anymore, it's just gonna flow. Knowing education plays a major part in all their lives. I say, “even if you're driving down the road, you need to know how to read that stop sign. You need to know how to read billboards and maps." Once you start relating it to reality, they get it.
What do you think it takes to be a sunshine method tutor?
You must love kids and love working with them. Learn to be flexible. You don't know what's going on in that child's life that day, so you must be flexible. You have to read the child and kind of read the parents. A lot of kids have distractions going on in the background and it's your job to get them focused and work around things. So, just having strong academic skills, being flexible, learning how to build a rapport with each kid, and learning when to read that kid—some are sensitive, some are not, and some have no filter. So, just learning how to adapt to each child.
What advice would you give a child that is struggling or having difficulty with a subject?
Well, I have these children who say, “I don't know how to read, I can't read, I can't do math or I'm struggling in math.” I always say, “I was there once.” Sometimes it takes a different teacher, a different learning style, and everyone does not learn the same way. Every teacher doesn't teach the same way. I will try to give them examples. I was doing badly in this one subject, and I couldn't get it for anything. Then I took it again, had another teacher, and all of a sudden, the light bulb went off. Sometimes we have to repeat it over and over and over again, but I don't have a problem repeating it or going over it again until they finally get it. Then they feel more comfortable with you.
Do you have any tips or strategies when you're working with children in person or online to keep them engaged?
With hyper kids, I typically make sure that they know I'm always there. I always ask if they are with me and they will say, “yeah, I'm with you.” If they get distracted, “I'm here. Are you with me?” So just keep going throughout. If you're reading the lesson and see they may be looking up I'm like, “are you with me?” You constantly have to get them thrown back to you. Sometimes they don't feel like reading, so I'll do the reading and they just have to answer the questions. Sometimes they don't like to have the camera on. I'm okay if you don't have the camera on as long as you listen to me, but I'm gonna ask questions throughout. You just have to adapt to each child's mood that day, because they have bad days just like we have bad days, so you just have to feel it out.
What advice would you give other tutors?
Be patient with the child. Understand that they may be having problems you don't know about. You don't know what kind of day, what kind of family dynamics they're dealing with. So, just be patient with the kid. Sometimes it may take a while for them to open up with you. Read their background thoroughly. Read the background Sunshine gives you. That gives you a clue into what kind of kid they may be. If you're dealing with some kids that are autistic, well, you know there's a spectrum. Not all autistic kids are alike. Some are introverted, some don't have any kind of filter. Having some that just won't speak up or “I can’t hear you. Let's go a little bit louder.” You have to read the background for each kid. Learn how they are, and I think maybe after the first two sessions you'll understand them a little bit better.
What are your hopes for your students in the future?
For a short-term goal, I’m hoping that they get to the next grade. For a long-term goal, I hope they graduate so they can be able to do whatever they want to do.
Thank you for reading, and thank you, Angela, for your contributions and impact on the next generation!