Written by Sunny Chen, Jennifer Chien
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
In January of 2021, the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association — also known as Tzu Ching — proposed the idea of tutoring students in Atlanta through a free weekly online program during their monthly meeting. The one-on-one math, English, natural science, and Chinese language courses would be offered to Tzu Chi Academy students, Tzu Chi care recipients, and family members of Tzu Chi volunteers.
With the help of tutors from Tzu Chi’s Atlanta Branch, the new weekly online one-on-one tutoring program reached out to students and began tutoring sessions in the spring of 2021.
Online Tutoring Officially Begins
On February 26th, Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association members, students, and parents met online for the first time. Volunteer Charlie Sun, the head of Tzu Chi USA’s Atlanta branch, introduced Tzu Chi’s missions to parents and students. Afterward, everyone participated in an interactive game of ‘Show and Tell’ as an ice-breaking activity. Tutors and students were then matched up and assigned a one-on-one video conference to get to know each other better.
One week after the initial online meeting, Sunny Chen shared teaching guidelines, software, and Georgia’s public school resources with Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association members, and set up seven one-on-one meetings, each lasting one hour. At the meeting, they discussed teaching content, tutoring methods, and the current needs of students. After the teachers and students jointly selected a weekly time slot for class, the online tutoring sessions officially started on March 4th.
Tutors communicate with parents in advance on the dedicated WeChat or LINE groups to describe the content that students need support with, and prepare lessons with parents’ feedback in mind. After the lesson preparation is completed, tutors upload the lesson plans to a shared Google Drive folder. Sunny Chen then reviews all lesson plans and leaves suggestions.
Tutoring sessions are also recorded and uploaded to the shared folder for Sunny to view and provide further feedback. Once the tutors receive their input and resolve any recommendations for improvement, they send it back to be discussed together.
Continued Support Promotes Achievement
As Dharma Master Cheng Yen said, “Acts of generosity are perceived as helping others when we ourselves are the true beneficiaries,” and “The purpose of life is to make time to do good deeds.” Therefore, by offering their time through this online tutoring program, members of the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association also experienced the joy and responsibility of being mentors.
Anting Chen, from Atlanta’s Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association, wrote, “Through student feedback, I have once again realized what mathematical concepts are already a second instinct for us, and what mathematical concepts are in their essence. This feeling is very novel. It’s my first time tutoring an online session. In many ways, I have also been taken care of by everyone, including the support of the parents and the guidance of the team. I’m really grateful to everyone for being mindful.”
Sunny believes that through this project, she has improved her time management skills. She realized that where there is a will, there is a way — even with her own coursework, two on-campus jobs, and one off-campus internship. Although her time needs to be managed very carefully to accommodate all of her responsibilities, she still finds time to send feedback to every tutor and ensure everything will run smoothly. Every time she sends feedback, she also sends her gratitude for their help and for their progress. And indeed, the team has grown much together through this program.
Tutors use ten minutes before class to chat with the student, understand their learning habits, and play interactive games. The warm-hearted communication makes these sessions both a valued time of learning and companionship.
Gratitude, Guidance, and Support
“Once, I joined one of the online tutoring sessions with Linda Chen as an observer and found that the student shared her love of anime with Linda, and seemed to have endless conversations with Linda in addition to the tutoring,” Sunny Chen shared. “Then I thanked Linda and said, ‘Awesome! Your students really love you!’”
Sunny Chen said another tutor, Ariel Li, explained how teaching writing skills could be challenging. The pair spent an hour exploring teaching strategies, and after Ariel’s first tutoring session, Sunny provided additional teaching materials and ideas. Since Ariel discovered her student likes dinosaurs, she also began to work these interests into her lesson plan to serve as writing inspiration.
Following the spring tutoring sessions, Ariel’s students even made a video, expressing, “Big sister Ariel, thank you for teaching me writing. I learned so much from you. Thank you!”
Although the pandemic has impacted so many aspects of daily life, it has not hindered the passion for service upheld by each member of Tzu Chi’s Collegiate Youth Association. The next generation of Tzu Chi volunteers may be using different methods of helping, yet still carry forth compassion and care that empowers.