This article appeared originally in BEdition on December 11, 2012 - Link
by Mario Pineda
Every Friday at noon for the last two terms I have left the campus of the University of Alberta and made my way to my neighborhood high school to help a student with his or her high school mathematics. While everyone else is having lunch and a break from studying we spend the hour in an empty classroom discussing and solving tricky math problems. I am volunteering my time helping students as part of the Study Buddy program offered by the Edmonton Public Schools. This program enables K-12 students to get tutoring, individually or in small groups, with an academic focus by a post secondary student. The tutoring takes place in participating Edmonton Public Schools and provides a substantial and important assistance for students that are not able to access private tutors. As a study buddy you are required to volunteer a minimum of one hour per week at a specific school assisting students for the entire semester. Recruitment of volunteers to the program takes place on the University of Alberta campus in September and January each school year. The next campus recruitment session will take place on January 21-24 (see http://www.epsb.ca/studybuddy for details).
The program started 34 years ago (during the 1978/1979 school year) as a cooperative venture between an Edmonton Public School social worker in one school and the City of Edmonton Community and Family Services’ Westmount office. Originally the program operated in 4-6 schools up to about 1988 at which point the program started to grow. Today between 900-1000 study buddies volunteer to help students every school year in 82 different schools throughout Edmonton. Nevertheless, there is room to grow. According to Ron Ward, a counsellor and the Study Buddy program coordinator at Strathcona High School, there is a huge need for individual tutoring of students at all levels of achievement (including students in the AP program). This semester, for example, the Strathcona High School has nine study buddies and there is a growing waiting list of students wanting to get help with their schoolwork in this school alone.
Volunteering to assist students with their schoolwork has many rewards. Being able to help a student to do better in a subject is obviously very rewarding, but there is more than meets the eye in terms of benefits both to the student and to you as a study buddy. A study buddy can be a positive role model for children and youth. For example, one of the volunteers at Strathcona High school graduated last year from that very school and is now in her first year of the B.Ed. program. Clearly she is an excellent role model for the high school students and has a clear edge in being able to relate to the students. Being a study buddy also enables you to interact with education professionals, gain experience working with students in an elementary school setting and allowing you to “field test” skills and knowledge you have acquired throughout your program of study. The main incentive for me to get involved with the program, however, was to provide assistance to students having a difficult time keeping up with their mathematics curriculum and that were not able to afford private tutoring. After two terms as a study buddy I have come to the realization that although it is very rewarding seeing students improve their math skills, the greatest satisfaction comes when, after an hour of intensive problem solving, the student ask me ”can you come and help me next week again?”. This is when I realize that not only are my efforts making a difference but also that teaching is my true calling.
Science classrooms are unique learning environments unlike any other classrooms. As a matter of fact, some things only happen in science classrooms. Here is a collection of event that happened in my own science classroom over the last school year. It's a growing list, so check back for updates.
Report from yours truly live-tweeting and navigating the melee at GETCA 2015 (Annual Greater Edmonton Teachers' Conference).
Can a pencil be more than just your average run of the mill pencil? The legendary Palomino Blackwing Pearl can take a student or teacher's writing to new heights. We have taken a batch of the Pearls for a spin and are blown away by how much writing and sketching can be transformed by this unassuming pencil.
Dr. Pineda's Classroom is going YouTube with the release of its first screencast on the exciting topic of calculating percents. Only time will tell if this is the start of something big and shiny or just a passing fad.
After several weeks working on setting up habitats for new classroom animals the big day finally arrived. The newest addition to our classroom include aquatic denizens in our new aquarium and a teenage bearded dragon with lots of attitude and no table manners.