Why I Do This

I visited School on Wheels’ tutoring site at the Rodeway Inn in Brockton recently, and worked with a second-grader named Grace. Grace arrived and pulled out her math homework, which she had already begun. We reviewed the problems and finished it together.

While working with Grace, I sensed math could be a little tricky for her. So, when she wanted to play with the toy money and coins after finishing her homework, I thought that was perfect. We set up a small, imaginary shop. First, I was the owner and Grace was my customer. I asked her to count her money, so we could figure out her budget and then she shopped. We then switched roles and I was the shopper.

I wasn't as honest as she was as a customer. She charge me $8 for my purchase and I gave her $6 to see if she'd catch me. I asked for discounts on "damaged" items. The first time I asked for a discount, I was buying a cookie sheet. "Well, this has a little scratch," I said pointing to the cookie sheet. "May I have a discount—maybe, a percentage off?" I asked. "Sure," she said. I gave her a dollar less than the original price. After I handed her the money, she said "I don't know what a discount is." 

In that moment, I realized how precious these tutoring sessions are to our students. I had, not only the opportunity to help with homework or play a game, I was able to teach her something and create a memory. So, I explained what a discount was and we continued our game until the end of our session. When it ended, I expected to gather my belongings, say my goodbyes and leave.

But as I was leaving in kind of daze, I heard a voice saying "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you." I looked to my left and there was Grace, trotting beside me. I could see how much it meant to her that I spent that time with her. It was definitely an unforgettable moment for me.

Kassmin Williams is serving as an Academic Coach with SOWMA through Commonwealth Corps. During her year of service, she is assisting with developing a student literacy evaluation tool, literacy activity trainings and online tutor trainings. Prior to her year of service, Kassmin volunteered with SOWMA as a tutor. Through that experience she realized the impact SOWMA has and wanted to become more involved. When she’s not serving with SOWMA, she is working as a freelance writer.

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