Young teaching younger

Everton McLean
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St. Bon's students tutor younger kids at community centre

Grade 4 student Breanna Somerton uses an abacus to solve a math problem at Rennie's River Elementary Thursday. Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Breanna Somerton flicks wooden beads across an abacus, her eyes trained on them as she solves the mathematical puzzle in her head.

A Grade 4 student at Rennie's River Elementary in St. John's, Breanna said she finds solutions more quickly when she uses the counting tool.

"It really helps me a lot, and it's easier to use," she says.

But using the abacus wasn't her idea. It came from her tutor, one of 15 St. Bonaventure's College high school students volunteering as math tutors at the MacMorran Community Centre.

"It's really fun," Breanna said.

While Breanna is learning multiplication tables, Melissa Abbott, a Grade 5 student, is learning fractions with her tutor.

She said the help from the St. Bon's students has been great.

"They want me to try it on my own, and if I can't get it they'll help me with it," she says.

Kim Abbott, Melissa's mom, values the program too. She said the tutors offer fresh knowledge about math that most parents don't have.

"I like the program because today's math is so different from when we went to school," she says.

She remembers trying to help Melissa's older brother with some homework a while back.

"We came to the right answer, but he failed a test because he had all the answers right but the work was wrong," she said.

Sonya Clarke-Casey, a co-ordinator at the centre, said the tutors have added a spark to the program since they started volunteering in October.

"The children love it," she said.

Clarke-Casey said younger children tend to look up to the older tutors, who are setting a good example while also teaching academics.

"When (the students) come up, they no longer say, 'I'm signing up for math tutoring,' they say, 'I'm signing up for Zach.'... They are really becoming mentors."

Meanwhile, parents say their children are doing better and having more success finishing homework, Clarke-Casey said.

Melissa's tutor, Grade 11 student Paddy Thompson, said it's rewarding to see kids progress and form student-teacher bonds.

"The kids are really nice and they look up to us a lot. We're making a difference," he said.

"The hardest part is keeping them focused, but you do see progression as you go."

Not all the St. Bon's students are teaching math. Dimitra Kusudi, also a Grade 11 student, teaches ball hockey and piano. But like Paddy, she said there's something special about young people tutoring and coaching younger people.

"I think it's good to have a younger (teacher) with them because they can relate to you," she said.

While Dimitra acknowledged volunteerism takes time out of students' already busy schedules, she said it's worth the effort.

"It is hard sometimes," she said.

"Sometimes you have a lot of other things to do, but in the end you really enjoy coming here and giving something of yours to someone else."

But Gerard Ryan says it's not just the younger students who are gaining from the experience. The St. Bon's religion teacher, who initially got the students to volunteer, said the tutors are benefiting as well.

"(They) might go in to teach particular students, but I'm also being taught as well," he said.

"In terms of our students, some of our students are gifted at math. It has always been our focus at the school that if you're gifted in a particular subject, it's not just for your own personal advancement but should be for the community itself."

He said the MacMorran math and extracurricular programs challenge students to be committed to a project on an ongoing basis and to realize the importance of education.

emclean@thetelegram.com

Organizations: MacMorran Community Centre, Grade 4, Grade 5

Geographic location: St. John's, Bonaventure

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Comments

Recent comments

  • Katrine
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    I'm sorry but I have to agree with ann marie's comment. Her parents would have agreed to let her be photographed for this article. She's a little girl and should not be wearing all of that makeup. Be the little girl that you are for now-you're too pretty to need that makeup, plenty of time for that when you're older. Glad the tutoring is helping you-good luck!

  • Shocked
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    Sorry keep it to yourself - its the first thing I noticed too. Wow... is that grade four little girl wearing eyeliner!!?? I had to double take to make sure she was really in grade four.

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Donny Dooley,

    I knew people from Dild0 were kinky but I didn't know you were also into Cross Dressing.

    I guess being raised by either

    1 - Circus Freaks
    2 - A Pack of Wolves
    3 - A Gypsy
    4 - Your Sister
    5 - the Village Idiot

    has that effect on people!

  • biore
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    I agree ann maries comment has nothing to do directly with this artical HOWEVER it was also the first thing i noticed with i seen this story. I work with children of this age and older and it's all about attention. this girls parents clearly knew she was going to be having her picture taken for the telegram and felt the need to pretty her up for the world to see, instead of letting her have her picture taken for the world to see her natural beauty. I mean really do you think soemone in grade 4 wears that much makeup and wears a shirt like that to school each day? highly doubtful.

    on another note it is great to see the children helping each other keep up the good work Breanna, and all others who are helping others.

  • Mark
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Who cares if the girl is wearing make up or not.

    The bottom line (for this story) is her grades are improving.

    When the banner of the story says,

    Grade 4 student wears make up Then feel free to talk about it.

    NUFF SAID!

  • Susan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    I think Ann Marie's comment is more than valid. This photo jumps off the homepage and completely distracts from the story to the point where it BECOMES the story. It's absolutely shameful for a parent or guardian to dress up their 4th grader like this for a published photo, and it's ridiculous for someone to suggest that such views be deleted.

    And if most girls are idolizing Spears, Simpson or Hilton, that's another problem in and of itself. Young girls need other role models, and some parents need to exercise a little common sense!

  • Catherine
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Alice is a man, Steve.

  • Pamela
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    great story about the community coming together.... Too bad the make-up took the people's attention... The remark from Steve towards Donny should not have been published....

  • ann marie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Is that child actually in grade four, can't believe her parents would let her attend school with all that make up on her face.

  • Catherine
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    I really like the idea especially because it was the religion teacher who saw fit to encourage community service... there certainly isn't enough encouragement of that kind these days. To take it a step further, perhaps Paddy's involvement with Breanna will have a positive impact on her view of volunteering in the future.

    On the other hand, Paddy stands to learn a fair amount about the way other families' live in St. John's. Hopefully he will see the value of his efforts - helping out for the greater good. Good job, Paddy.

    Go Donny - way to put it in perspective, buddy...

  • Donny
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Come on now, lighten up. Girls her age listen to Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton so it's no surprise that they want to look and be just like their idols. Who can blame them. I wore that much makeup when I was her age and I tried to look like Alice Cooper!

  • Keep it to yourself
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    The comment from Anne Marie should be deleted. It has nothing to do with the fact that students are helping students and should be kept to herself. I hope it is removed before the parents see it or worse the child. Great job to the St. Bon's students and all involved in tutoring!

  • Barb from NL
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    The make-up was the first thing I noticed also but make-up isn't what the story is about. The tutors aren't teaching them beauty skills. I think what those St. Bon's students are doing is very commendable and if one childs boosts their marks, then it has all been worth it. The high school students get to share their knowledge with kids that are not as fortunate as they are when it comes to solving problems, reading, sports or music. Keep up the good work, it will pay off for both the student and the tutor.

  • Katrine
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    I'm sorry but I have to agree with ann marie's comment. Her parents would have agreed to let her be photographed for this article. She's a little girl and should not be wearing all of that makeup. Be the little girl that you are for now-you're too pretty to need that makeup, plenty of time for that when you're older. Glad the tutoring is helping you-good luck!

  • Shocked
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    Sorry keep it to yourself - its the first thing I noticed too. Wow... is that grade four little girl wearing eyeliner!!?? I had to double take to make sure she was really in grade four.

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    Donny Dooley,

    I knew people from Dild0 were kinky but I didn't know you were also into Cross Dressing.

    I guess being raised by either

    1 - Circus Freaks
    2 - A Pack of Wolves
    3 - A Gypsy
    4 - Your Sister
    5 - the Village Idiot

    has that effect on people!

  • biore
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    I agree ann maries comment has nothing to do directly with this artical HOWEVER it was also the first thing i noticed with i seen this story. I work with children of this age and older and it's all about attention. this girls parents clearly knew she was going to be having her picture taken for the telegram and felt the need to pretty her up for the world to see, instead of letting her have her picture taken for the world to see her natural beauty. I mean really do you think soemone in grade 4 wears that much makeup and wears a shirt like that to school each day? highly doubtful.

    on another note it is great to see the children helping each other keep up the good work Breanna, and all others who are helping others.

  • Mark
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    Who cares if the girl is wearing make up or not.

    The bottom line (for this story) is her grades are improving.

    When the banner of the story says,

    Grade 4 student wears make up Then feel free to talk about it.

    NUFF SAID!

  • Susan
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    I think Ann Marie's comment is more than valid. This photo jumps off the homepage and completely distracts from the story to the point where it BECOMES the story. It's absolutely shameful for a parent or guardian to dress up their 4th grader like this for a published photo, and it's ridiculous for someone to suggest that such views be deleted.

    And if most girls are idolizing Spears, Simpson or Hilton, that's another problem in and of itself. Young girls need other role models, and some parents need to exercise a little common sense!

  • Catherine
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Alice is a man, Steve.

  • Pamela
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    great story about the community coming together.... Too bad the make-up took the people's attention... The remark from Steve towards Donny should not have been published....

  • ann marie
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Is that child actually in grade four, can't believe her parents would let her attend school with all that make up on her face.

  • Catherine
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    I really like the idea especially because it was the religion teacher who saw fit to encourage community service... there certainly isn't enough encouragement of that kind these days. To take it a step further, perhaps Paddy's involvement with Breanna will have a positive impact on her view of volunteering in the future.

    On the other hand, Paddy stands to learn a fair amount about the way other families' live in St. John's. Hopefully he will see the value of his efforts - helping out for the greater good. Good job, Paddy.

    Go Donny - way to put it in perspective, buddy...

  • Donny
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Come on now, lighten up. Girls her age listen to Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton so it's no surprise that they want to look and be just like their idols. Who can blame them. I wore that much makeup when I was her age and I tried to look like Alice Cooper!

  • Keep it to yourself
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    The comment from Anne Marie should be deleted. It has nothing to do with the fact that students are helping students and should be kept to herself. I hope it is removed before the parents see it or worse the child. Great job to the St. Bon's students and all involved in tutoring!

  • Barb from NL
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    The make-up was the first thing I noticed also but make-up isn't what the story is about. The tutors aren't teaching them beauty skills. I think what those St. Bon's students are doing is very commendable and if one childs boosts their marks, then it has all been worth it. The high school students get to share their knowledge with kids that are not as fortunate as they are when it comes to solving problems, reading, sports or music. Keep up the good work, it will pay off for both the student and the tutor.