Putting the Cool Back in School


Grace Mak

Every eighth period, Jefferson students spend time with younger students, hoping to inspire the same joy in learning they experience with their peers, like freshmen Alissa Rask and Alice Ji, at school.

Lauren Delwiche, Staff Writer

Everyone knows the stereotype where people point and say “Oh look at those Jefferson kids, they are such nerds.” Liking school wasn’t cool in elementary or middle school, and it still isn’t today. However, some Jefferson students are trying to change this for future generations.

Once a week during eighth period, small groups of Jefferson students drive out to elementary and middle schools in the area to act as tutors, mentors and role models. They spend an hour of their week going to schools like Columbia Elementary, Weyanoke Elementary, Holmes Run Middle and Glasgow Middle to work with younger students and get them excited about learning.

According to sponsor Michael Miller, who runs the program at Columbia Elementary, these tutors work with kids in all grade levels in a variety of ways.

“It just depends on what the teacher needs,” Miller said. “Sometimes it’s helping students with math, sometimes it’s helping them with reading or writing, sometimes it’s just playing with them.”

Mr. Miller believes that there are benefits in the program for both the tutors and their mentees.

“We get at least as much from them as they get from us,” Miller said.

For those getting tutored, it is more social than it is academic.

“I think they really look up to you big kids and they want to be like you. So when you have kids coming from Jefferson who are very bright and school-focused, it’s our way of saying ‘It’s cool to be school focused, it’s cool to like math, it’s cool to want to go to college’ and that means a lot to those kids,” Mr. Miller said.

The goal of the tutoring programs is to help with young kids’ attitudes toward learning and to teach life lessons, not just to demonstrate an academic concept. There are many benefits for the Jefferson kids involved in the program as well.

“[They get] a trip outside the building and perspective outside the building,” Mr. Miller said. “It is quiet driving over [to Columbia], but coming back the students are energetic and have been recharged.”

This reflects the overall mission of Jefferson’s outreach. They want to build the joy of learning and exploring in young students, not just program facts into their heads.

“John Dewey, the educational philosopher, said that the most important point of an educational lesson is probably not the explicit one.” Miller said. “That is, if I have a tutor working with a kid, sometimes it’s not whether he grasps multiplication, but how he feels about math afterward.”