Building confidence and joy: how tutoring is sparking promise in New Jersey
“Mr. Steven! Am I going to see you tomorrow?”
“Not tomorrow, but Wednesday!”
“And, what about Thursday?”
“Yup, I’ll see you Thursday, too.”
As the young girl rounds the corner to her next activity with a gleeful “yayyyy,” Steven turns back to me, chuckling, “sorry about that, where were we?”
Truth is, I lost where we were. All that mattered in that moment was the pure joy that little girl had in knowing that in just two days time, she would once again get to work with Mr. Steven Volpe – a 10th grade history teacher serving as a tutor at the Paulsboro Boys & Girls Club in south New Jersey. With opportunities like basketball camp, crafts, technology, and swimming competing for the little girl’s attention, she still looked forward to the opportunity to be tutored. So I asked Steven what that interaction meant to him and what he was going to miss about the kids he’d worked with the last seven weeks.
“Seeing their smiles and their energy. In the beginning, some of [the kids] were a little apathetic like, ‘Ah, we have tutoring? It’s the summer,’ but by the end they are like, ‘When do we have tutoring? When am I going to see you next?’ Just seeing that has been very, very rewarding. It’s a good reminder about why you go into [teaching], to see kids enjoy learning.”
Joyful moments like this are common for seasoned educators like Steven. For aspiring and novice teachers like Christian McCarville and Emily Cooper, tutors at the Boys & Girls in Glassboro, New Jersey, the feelings that stem from these types of joyful moments often solidify their decision to become teachers.
That’s why programs like the New Jersey Tutoring Corps – a statewide high-impact tutoring program that recruits future teachers and others as tutors – are not only vital to America’s educational recovery but also to current efforts to address persistent and worsening teacher shortages, especially in high-need and hard-to-staff schools. These programs are cultivating more authentic, often earlier, practice opportunities for the next generation of American teachers to build their confidence – and joy – in the job they’ve felt called to do.
Despite national narratives surrounding the teacher shortages that many communities face, there are a lot of people still choosing to enter the profession. This is encouraging to see.
It’s also something we can draw inspiration from as we seek solutions that allow more individuals with a passion for serving students to access opportunities to experience the joys, impact, and intellectual work of teaching. Fortunately, several promising solutions are already being put in place. As one example, New Jersey lawmakers recently adopted the New Jersey Tutoring Corps into the state budget, giving the program a well-deserved boost to scale and sustain its effort over the next school year. We believe more states should follow suit.
Mobilizing aspiring teachers as tutors holds incredible promise for building a strong pipeline of teachers that are prepared to create safe, challenging, affirming, and inclusive classrooms for all students—the kind of environments that will foster creative thinking and grow leaders who can one day solve our nation’s biggest challenges. That’s certainly Emily and Christian’s intention for joining today’s teacher workforce.