Lia Colbert thought she was ready to switch careers and become a teacher. But she decided to use the knowledge she gained in her education classes and apply it to Cluster Tutoring.
“I was actually going to change my field to education,” said Lia, who works in a cytopathology technology laboratory. “I had taken a semester of classes on my way to earning a master’s in education, and I just stumbled into tutoring instead.” Lia saw that she could use what she learned in her advanced classroom and turn it toward teaching others. Lia also remembered how helpful tutoring was when she was a student and was glad to pass it on.
Lia started tutoring Jamiya when the girl was a second grader. She’s now a high school junior.
“Jamiya’s a really good student,” Lia said. “Sometimes she needs some nudging to stay on track, but she’s a hard worker.”
Like many teenagers, Jamiya “likes to talk,” Lia said. “Sometimes it’s hard to stay on task. But there’s a lot to discuss. When they get older, they have a lot to say.”
Lia sees herself as a mentor to Jamiya as much as a tutor. “We discuss personal situations with friends or differences with teachers. It’s more than just helping her with academic tasks. It’s a matter of having her figure things out.”
While other tutor-student pairs might use the last 15 minutes of tutoring to play a game, Lia said she and Jamiya either keep working on assignments or just talk.
For instance, Lia was able to help Jamiya through a situation where Jamiya was upset with one of her teachers. Maybe if you just talk to him, Lia suggested, you can work things out.
The approach was a success. “She learned that a better approach is being respectful,” Lia said. “It’s a matter of calming down.” Sometimes, tutoring offers an opportunity “of just being there to help her sort things out.”
Because Jamiya is now an 11th grader, the pair are talking about college. One of the schools Jamiya is interested in is Lia’s alma mater, Fiske University in Nashville. “I’m able to share my experience about college, and that got her thinking about it,” Lia said.
Like many tutors, Lia finds Jamiya’s high school math classes a challenge, since she hasn’t studied those subjects since she was in high school. “Sometimes we find that we figure it out together,” she said. But she added that she has appreciated the help from Thursday night math coach Rohit Naringrekar — a sentiment no doubt shared by many tutors. “He helped out a lot,” Lia said.
Like other tutors, Lia gets a lot out of participating. “It’s very fulfilling for me to be able to help. I’ve enjoyed being able to be that extra source for the students,” Lia said.
Lia has found an unexpected benefit from tutoring: Lessons she can use for her own children, a sixth grader and a freshman in high school.
“Everything I’ve learned there, I’ve been able to apply to my kids,” she said.