Program for After School Studies

After I retired as a principal in a high school, I was interested in using my skills developed as a teacher over forty years to do some volunteer work. My daughter who lives in Melbourne, and who is also a teacher, worked for a similar organisation to MARSS. She worked with a family who were newly arrived and helped with their English, so I thought that was something I could do.
I contacted the MARRS centre through the ACT Volunteer website and attended an orientation night. A person from MARRS called me and told me that they didn’t really need anyone to teach English at the moment, but, because I had a science and maths background, there was a need for a tutor in the PASS program for students undertaking the more advanced senior mathematics and science programs. 
Tutoring students in the PASS program, is similar to working with any student. Firstly you need to get an understanding about what the students have missed out on in their education or don’t fully understand. Often it can be a problem of language, understanding a question, or how to respond. Students may also have a gap in their learning especially if they have a disrupted school history. A student that has been in a transit camp for a time when they are supposed to be learning the basics of algebra, age 12 to 15, and they don’t have access to formal education at that time, they will need to catch up on that basic groundwork. The tutor has to understand what the student missed out on and build that scaffold underneath. 
It is important to have the same tutor and the same student consistently over time and it’s important to build a strong student–teacher relationship so they have somebody to rely on and that understands the student’s strengths and weaknesses. The tutor should always look to move the student from being a dependent to an independent learner. I try to introduce a number of learning tools that the students can use by themselves to understand, think through and respond to questions they may encounter.
Working with the MARSS students is a great pleasure because of their enthusiasm and drive to do well at school and achieve in the future. Many students have arrived recently from other countries and they are keen to take up all opportunities for their own betterment and to take their place in the Australian community. The students are committed because they attend after school or of their own accord, so it is rewarding to see them make so much progress and achieve their own goals. I have one student who has completed her school studies and is now making good progress at university. Being a MARSS tutor is a great opportunity to help someone else, and an enjoyable experience for the volunteer. 

- Philip Steel
  Volunteer for the Program for After School Studies

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