Help to create 'Aha!' moments for pupils who need extra help

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The article "Sessions With Neighborhood Men Inspire Their Young Interviewers" (Nov. 12) resonated with genuine connections with the youth involved. The sessions will undoubtedly have an ongoing impact on the lives of these young men. Sadly, it's likely that the youth who need the intervention the most will not be the ones to participate.

I taught second grade in the city schools. Now that I am retired, I tutor first- and second-graders in reading and math in a nearby elementary school. Unfortunately, the behavior of a significant percentage of the children is deplorable. They do not demonstrate that they have any idea of where they are and what they are there for. They are rude and disruptive and have the teachers at their wits' end. The teachers have no aides but have rooms that are extremely rich learning environments. They care deeply about the kids and have a tremendous amount of material to cover. They are trying hard but are fighting an uphill battle.

It is frustrating to see how the kids who do know how to settle down and focus are not able to give their undivided attention to the teachers' well-presented, but constantly interrupted, lessons because of the disruptive kids. One problem seems to be very little support from the homes and parents. When I ask my "tutees" if someone at home can help them count change, listen to them read, quiz them on their spelling words, etc., the answer is usually a shake of the head. Success in school requires the teamwork of the teacher, the pupil and the home. The teacher cannot do it all.

Oasis, an intergenerational tutoring program with Pittsburgh headquarters at Macy's Downtown, provides mentors to a few children but needs more tutors. The kids need the individualized help if they are going to get turned around, settled down and pointed in the right direction. I wish more retired teachers would get involved. It's a small amount of time and tremendously rewarding to create that "Aha!" moment when a kid "gets it." It's a win-win situation for all involved and has far-ranging benefits!




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