This spring, I worked as a tutor for the Memphis Literacy Corps.

I signed up not really knowing what to expect, just thinking that it would be a good experience and a good part-time job for a full-time student such as myself. I had no previous experience tutoring and little experience working with kids, but I figured we would be well-prepared for the job.

After all, they were sending out mass emails to college kids of all majors, and surely they wouldn’t send us in there unprepared, right? And surely there would be adequate supervision and assistance throughout the program, right? Well…

Our training consisted of a three-hour orientation. Although there was a lot of information presented, it was a lot to take in at once. Especially since I had no experience, I felt pretty overwhelmed.

Tutoring During Non-Fun Classes

But it seemed that the people running the show would be supportive and there was a forum set up for us to ask questions, so I figured it would be fine. We were given information on how to contact our site coordinator and then we were wished luck and set on our way.

As I understand it, the program had been advertised as being an after-school program, and it had been said that the tutoring would not affect kids going to their regular classes. When I contacted my site coordinator, I found that this was inaccurate. I was able to find a local Organic Chemistry Tutor here.

I was told that I had to be finished with my tutoring by 3 p.m., because that’s when the school let out. The tutors were told to go get the children they were tutoring out of their regular classes for an hour when they came to tutor. If you are looking for tutoring for your kids you should also be looking into getting a level chemistry tuition to help with the cost of tutoring. The site coordinator at the school where I tutored specifically worked the schedule so that the kids would not be taken out of their more fun classes, like art; this seems like a good idea, because that way the kids wouldn’t mind so much being pulled out of class, but it meant that we were pulling them out of their more important classes, like English and math.

I don’t blame the site coordinator for this, as she was trying to make it easier on us tutors. The fundamental problem with this is that the program was during school hours, so kids had to be pulled out of one of their classes.


The curriculum we were given, which grouped kids into one of three categories based on their reading abilities, consisted of specific “scripts” to follow so we would know what to do each day. One of the many problems with these is that they were very sparse on examples and often used the exact same examples for different concepts.

The word “communication” must have come up a dozen times to teach different things, and some of the examples were simply incorrect; for instance, one of them was focusing on working with prefixes, and it said to tell the children that the “comm” in communication and community is a prefix meaning “together” (or something to that effect).

That’s not true at all. I was really surprised to find something like that in the materials.

I opted to skip a large part of that section, simply because it was teaching things that were not true and would just end up being confusing. Also, the scripts often did not fill up the entire time we were supposed to work, so we ended up reading more to fill up the time – this would have been perfectly fine, as practice reading was good for them, but then we ran out of the books that were provided for the program near the end, and I had to bring books from home and make up other activities.

Invisible Oversight

If it had been explained that this would be the case, that would have been one thing, but the scripts implied that they would last the entire time. Interestingly, after the program ended, we were sent a survey to fill out about our experiences in the program, and it specifically asked where we got books to use after we finished the ones provided by the program. Again, I had no problem with reading that many books with them, or the fact that I had to bring them, but the fact that they could not have made any of this clear in our instructions seems a bit ridiculous.

I cannot speak about how it was for all tutors, but while I was at the school, I had very little contact with any of the teachers. The teachers did not seem to have been told very much about the tutoring program, so there was little coordination or support between tutors and teachers. There was virtually no supervision of tutors while we were working – I honestly could have been teaching them anything, or playing games with them, or just making them stare at the wall for an hour, and no one would have known.

Of course, I didn’t. I stayed to the scripts as well as I could and I tried to keep them focused on reading as much as I could, but it is entirely possible that some tutors did very little actual tutoring.

C’mon, you hire college kids, and you don’t supervise them? I know plenty of college kids who can’t even be trusted to do their own school work and show up to their own classes, so how are they going to be motivated enough to show up every day and help a kid with theirs?

The Round-Up

Possibly the most concerning aspect of this program, at least from my perspective, is that they did a poor job of assessing the subjects in which children needed help.

Based on the three children I tutored, it seemed as if they simply rounded up all 3rd to 5th graders who had been held back at least one year, tested them in reading to see which of the three categories they fit in, and stuck them in this tutoring program only for reading.

I think that the fact that it was only for reading is fine – that’s a good place to start. But I tutored one child who had absolutely no problems with reading and told me that she had only been held back because of her math scores.

So why was she in this program? Because no one figured out if she should be in or not. They just saw that she’d been held back and tossed her in with the rest of them.

Although I did have an overall good experience working with the kids I tutored, there were far too many problems with this program. That forum they set up for us to ask questions? I was never able to access it. Luckily I have friends in the education field, so I was able to go to them with questions I had. But the lack of training and support for the tutors was a huge problem.

I’d love to help more kids with reading, but there is no way I would sign up for this program again, assuming it continues. Wonderful concept, horrible execution.