Berkeley/Albany Volunteer Coordinator
While reading this recent amusing New York Times article, "But I Want To Do Your Homework: Helping Kids With Their Homework," I couldn’t help but be reminded of the tendency I sometimes observe in our coaches to correct their students’ papers, or impose their own ideas, rather than meet their students where they are. I've seen how feelings of superiority and inadequacy can cause the best of intentions to go awry.
Last year, while debriefing anxious new coaches after their first few sessions with students, I often offered this advice: If you find yourself doing most of the talking or desperately trying to figure out what to do or say next, redirect your attention away from yourself (this isn't about you) and engage the student by asking them questions and really listening to their responses.
I’ve discovered that if I can get students to go beyond "sound bites" by encouraging them to more thoughtfully express their opinions and feelings (without my judging them), they begin to take pride in their own ideas. Then I ask them to write a few sentences about what we discussed while I remain quiet and fill out the coach worksheet. Depending upon where we are in the session, I make sure there is enough time for them to read aloud to me what they have just written; there is always at least a nugget or two from which to build and sometimes their words bring me to tears! When students feel proud of their own voices, they leave encouraged and inspired to continue to work on the assignment. And my heart is full.
WCC’s emphasis on encouraging and helping our students to build confidence and competence in their thinking and writing skills is, for me, the antithesis of the hovering “helicopter parent” as described in this article.