One key piece still missing at my school is a space designated for peer-to-peer tutoring and peer-to-peer collaboration. Each time my math team comes together to brainstorm 'math intervention', it seems we are chasing an elusive white rabbit. I tell 'em "I say we set a time and a space where we get kids comfortable to visit and work collaboratively."
I've had a few attempts, but the most effective thus far is what I've seen these past three weeks. Tuesdays and Thursdays til 4:30 afterschool in Mr. G's room. Find yourself some tutoring.
In past years, I've felt aversive to tutoring. After all, it's unpaid, extra work with students who [some may claim] should've 'got it' if they had put more effort during class time. Don't get me wrong, I understand the effectiveness of one-on-one student to teacher time as much as the next teach. I just haven't found a way to make it a regular habit for myself nor my kids. Aside from this, the past 3 years of what some may claim "the teacher hazing process" would always leave me pretty exhausted and in need of non-school thoughts and nap time by the end of the school day.
But now, things are on the up. Now, we've got both. Each Tuesday and Thursday, I readjust the seats to accomodate group seating by 3:05 and students fill the space. What normally provides house to 54-minute algebra and geometry periods becomes a relaxed afterschool atmosphere where students are welcome to give and receive math help. You should hear the conversations in this place! Students are at the white board doing multi-step problems. Students are seated in groups of 3 or 4 focused on specific concepts and teaching each other. Not just current students, but ex-students as well. Not just students of Algebra & Geometry (the subjects I teach), but Algebra II'ers as well. This is what I call a community of learners:
What am I doing during this time? I'm sitting at the desks with them. And I help where I can. I advise students on how to become stronger students. Of course I can't conduct a 1 on 15 tutoring session, but I can pair students up where I see fit, and I act as the last resort "ugh, I really really don't get this... let's ask Mr. G" answer giver.
Lastly, these relaxed spaces for math help act as a relaxed space for fun, cool interaction. In today's session, for example, we had another one of those age-old dialogues concerning my youth:
S1: Mr. G, how old are you anyway? You must be like, either 25 or in your early 30's.
Me: Hah, those are two very different ages.
S2: So, you started teaching right outta college right? When you were 22!? What did the kids think about you then?
Me: They thought I was either 25 or in my early 30's.
S1 & S2: LOL.
S2: Here, tell me what year you were born. I'll do the math.
S2: Aright, what year is it? 2011... (3 minutes later)... No, you lyin'!