Archive for Thursday, January 27, 2005

Students pass on tutors in favor of peer coaches for academic help

January 27, 2005

When basketball players want to improve their shot, they can ask their basketball coach for help.

When Lansing High School students want to learn how they can score more points on a math test, they go to an academic coach for pointers.

This semester, and for the past three years, National Honor Society members have been available before and after school and during seminar to coach their peers in just about any subject, usually math and foreign language.

Last fall, about 15 students signed up for the program. Teachers, counselors or parents can recommend students to be "coachees," or students can ask their teachers to nominate them.

Many waited until the after the first progress report or even the last week before finals. For those who waited until the last minute, NHS offered last-minute coaching with tables set up by topic.

Working with peers instead of hiring a tutor is a better option for many students.

"It's easier than getting a tutor from Saint Mary's because you can sign up at school and then you have someone to meet with whenever," said Kathleen Garner, Lansing senior and National Honor Society secretary. "Plus, it's not as intimidating."

Any student inducted into NHS can be a coach. NHS students list their strengths as students and times they are available to help on a questionnaire.

NHS sponsor Mary Alice Schroeger and program coordinator Chris Maxwell, a senior, pair up the students. Students who have taken a class or are in an advanced level coach students in lower-level classes.

Garner coached her friend Tiffany Turner last year. After getting over the initial awkwardness, Garner said working with her friend paid off. She helped Turner to break down problems by trying to grasp concepts.

"It's just a friend asking a friend to help them out," Garner said. "She ended up doing better in her math class."

While many students already know their coachees, Maxwell said that one of the most rewarding parts of coaching is developing new friendships.

Other coaches like the informal yet professional feel of the program.

"It works out well because it's easier to stay focused because you aren't talking about other things," said Jessica Riese, junior NHS member and academic coach. Riese, a calculus student, coaches students in precalculus. Riese and Maxwell both have found coaching has served as a good refresher for them as well.

"I was helping one kid with English, and I had forgotten a few things, so I had to go back and review what I had learned," Maxwell said.

Looking to the future, Maxwell said learning how to coach his peers is something he would like to take with him when he goes to the University of Kansas next fall.

"If you can sacrifice just a little bit of your time, it's not hard at all," Maxwell said.

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