School has been a struggle for Gabe. My adorable first grader has been in a hurry since his first moments when he made his grand entrance into the world 6 weeks early. As a result of his prematurity, Gabe faced many challenges early on, including a severe speech delay, gross and fine motor difficulties, severe ADHD, and multiple learning delays. Early Intervention worked wonders with my little munchkin, and he was making great strides during his first year of preschool.
And then the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
The advances Gabe was making began to fade as he was thrown into the world of virtual school. He completed preschool via Zoom, and the first six months of kindergarten were spent watching his teacher through the computer screen. As his peers slowly started sounding out words, Gabe fidgeted, wiggled, and looked out the window, too distracted by the cacophony of his classmates’ voices to pay attention to his teacher’s valiant efforts from the screen. He thought of school as nothing more than a YouTube video that he wasn’t particularly interested in watching.
By the time he entered the actual classroom, he could recognize only nine letters. Seeing how discouraged he became when we worked on his homework together broke my mama heart.
As he entered first grade this year, we knew Gabe needed some extra help.
Finding qualified tutors for the tiniest of students during the middle of a pandemic seemed like a huge undertaking, until I stumbled upon GoPeer. This description quickly caught my attention. “The easiest way to find your next great tutor! A resource that allows families to connect with qualified college undergraduates who are available to tutor students!”
Clicking through the main page, I was met with profiles of college students who seemed simply amazing. National Honor Society, All-Scholastics athletes, dean’s list — the accolades just kept popping up on the screen.
Figuring it was worth a try, I filled out a simple profile describing Gabe and his needs. Within the hour, GoPeer suggested a number of possible matches, and I received messages of introduction from three tutors who were interested in working with Gabe.
Our perfect match
Sophie, a sophomore at Rutgers University, instantly caught my attention. In her introduction, she said she had worked through the pandemic as a nanny, helping a 5-year-old navigate virtual learning. A match made in heaven for Gabe! We chatted through text on the GoPeer site about Gabe’s academic progress and struggles and scheduled our session for the following day with just a few clicks on the calendar.
Our tutoring session was similar to Zoom, but much more user-friendly for Gabe.
Gabe and Sophie could see each other on the screen and became fast friends. Her assessment of his skills mirrored the suggestions I had made in our chat, and she quickly gauged his skill level. She tailored her lesson specifically to Gabe and patiently guided him through sounding out letters and reading and writing short words on his whiteboard. She never rushed him, allowing him as much time as he needed to figure out the answers. He beamed at her enthusiastic encouragement and was brimming with confidence when he succeeded on his own.
Keeping his attention.
At the beginning of the session, I had been apprehensive that an hour of tutoring would be far too long to keep Gabe’s attention, as had been the case during our months of virtual learning. He could barely sit through a 30-minute lesson — how was he ever going to make it a full hour?
My fears fell to the wayside when I realized Sophie had a myriad of resources available through the GoPeer website to keep his tiny little mind (and hands!) busy. When he became fidgety during her initial assessment, she changed the screen to a touch screen art pad and offered him the opportunity to draw her a picture. As she noticed him wiggling or becoming distracted during the lesson, she presented him with books and pictures on the screen, in turn capturing his attention for the complete hour.
At the end of our hour together, Gabe sprinted off, always in a rush to get to his next adventure. I assumed he was on his way to celebrate his freedom from the computer, but instead heard him saying to his big brother in the other room: