Do you have (or know) a fabulous teen? The kind of kid who sets an example for others, who is genuinely good-natured, hard-working, and just…well, terrific? I urge you to encourage him or her to be a peer tutor.
What is a peer tutor?
Peer tutoring is a marvelous program where students who do not have disabilities lend a helping hand to those who do. Most schools that mainstream special education students provide this opportunity. Peer tutors act as assistants, helping disabled students get to their classes, follow class instruction, and stay on task. They “model” appropriate behaviors, like sitting quietly, keeping actions socially appropriate, and being a friend. They give clarification and additional instruction, providing one-on-one assistance that is sometimes impossible for a teacher to give.
What’s in it for my child?
Your child will develop a heightened sense of compassion, responsibility, and self-esteem. I promise you, there are few things as satisfying for your child as knowing he is making a daily difference in someone else’s life. Teenagers are typically self-absorbed, and, in my view, they benefit greatly when they are given opportunities to serve others.
Peer tutoring is an excellent “anti-depressant” for teens, because assisting someone in a more difficult situation helps deter feelings of self pity. Plus, the teen gains self-esteem as she observes another student looking to her for guidance.
Your child will likely receive school credit for peer tutoring. And peer tutors often get perks that other kids don’t. They may get special attention from school administrators, free time to complete homework, and lots of self respect. I’ve been told it looks good on a college application.
However, peer tutors need guidance and instruction prior to taking on this role. They need to clearly understand the nature of their peer’s disability, what things motivate or upset him, and how they can best provide assistance. They should probably meet with the disabled peer on a few occasions with a counselor or teacher to become acquainted before deciding to make the commitment. I’ll be giving peer tutor tips in a future blog.
We need exemplary kids to lead the way!
My son Kyle will soon be assigned a peer tutor in one of his mainstream courses. I do not know this girl (yet), but I already think about her. Does she know how much her assistance means to me, the parent of a disabled child? Does she have any idea how grateful I am that she will be able to offer some protection from those who might try to take advantage of my son? Could she possibly know how glad I am that she will help him to stay on task, so he can be part of a normal classroom? I plan to do something special for her, to say “thank you.”
If you know a teenager who would make a great peer tutor, suggest it! Tell him or her what an incredible experience it is. Speak to a school administrator about how to get the process started. We need these wonderful peer tutors to help our special kids, and the arrangement is mutually beneficial.