Written by Sunny Chen, Jennifer Chien
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
The Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association in Atlanta, Georgia, officially began their one-on-one online tutoring sessions on March 4th, 2021, offering free English, natural science, and Chinese language courses to Tzu Chi Academy students, Tzu Chi care recipients, and family members of Tzu Chi volunteers.
Through mutual commitment, care, and teamwork, Youth Association members have helped make a difference for students. And in the process, they, too, have learned something precious.
The Youth Association members firmly kept in mind Tzu Chi’s holistic educational mission during the tutoring process. And therefore, when tutors encountered other areas students required help with throughout the one-on-one sessions, they collaborated with parents to overcome these difficulties with clarity and compassion.
Learning Responsibility From The Program
To ensure a high-quality experience, the tutoring sessions are each recorded and reviewed, and tutors are provided with meaningful feedback to improve their lessons.
Sunny Chen is the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association’s president in Atlanta, and the individual responsible for the planning and overall coordination of the online tutoring program. When Sunny Chen discovered through these videos that a student was often late or unprepared, she reached out to parents to understand the situation. After communicating with them, Ryan Liang, who is the student’s tutor, also helped develop positive habits through gentle encouragement and supervision. He then shared his teaching experience, saying, “In math, I found that reading ability partly affects students’ scores. Therefore, I’ll introduce new books to read to improve English reading comprehension. Sometimes, seemingly irrelevant things may be the key to solving the problem.”
And indeed, this process allowed members of the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association to gain experience vital to achieving their goals of becoming educators as well. Every time Ryan prepares a teaching plan in advance, it’s often over 20 pages, and he always follows up to acknowledge his students’ progress.
Students Help Cultivate Mindfulness
Ryan Lo’s sense of responsibility and dedication has prompted his students to affectionately call him “Teacher Lo.” In a reflection piece, Ryan later wrote, “Through this meaningful program, I realized the importance of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Being patient and caring for students is also what I learned in this program. I’m honored to be able to participate in this tutoring program. It not only benefited me a lot, but also helped my students grow.”
Phyllis Guo is another tutor that exhibits attentiveness and patience with every session. She utilizes short videos featuring content that students are interested in to raise engagement, and then weaves these concepts into the course to promote learning and memorization.
“I benefited a lot from the online tutoring program in just a few months’ time,” Phyllis shared. “Although it seems that I’m teaching the student, in the process, I was taught things that I didn’t notice before. Student’s love for nature and their observation of details amazed me, and their visible progress in writing and reading also made me happy.” With each message shared, it was equally heartwarming to learn of the valuable lessons tutors were taught by their students as well.
Zhouxin Zuo, the president of Emory University’s Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association, was initially in charge of the administrative activities for the program. On the day of the first online meeting, however, upon assisting with matching volunteer tutors with students, Zhouxin Zuo joined in as a tutor, too, to meet students’ needs. And thus, Sunny Chen and Zhouxin Zuo decided that Sunny would share the administrative work so Zhouxin could take on the role of a tutor.
Zhouxin’s student, Ricky, expressed excellent feedback at the end of their session: “I have consistently got better grades in my math class because you have taught me easier and better strategies. Thank you!”
Zhouxin shared these accomplishments with the group, saying, “My student helped me cultivate patience and made me realize that everyone understands and deals with problems differently. In fact, we’re not just tutors; many times in life, we need to learn to think from the perspective of others. We often look at problems from another angle to better solve problems.”
Students Help Cultivate Mindfulness
At the first online meeting, a parent and volunteer named Cairong Wu expressed her support for the program and took the initiative to complete crucial secretarial duties, such as recording meeting minutes, program planning, and capturing portraits. Cairong also actively cooperated with Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association members to share the contents covered in school every week. After the sessions concluded, she even made a special video featuring drawings from her two children to express their gratitude for the team.
A student named Eason and his uncle, Bryan, always provided helpful feedback for the tutors. At the end of the semester, he also sent a text message: “Teacher Sunny, your analysis is great! Thank you for sharing the valuable experiences between each teacher and student, and thank you, Mr. Anding Chen, for your support. Thank you so much. I’m grateful for your assistance!” He also accompanied his niece and nephew in making two thank you cards to express his gratitude. The students drew a rainbow and heart-shaped balloons on the card, and wrote, “I hope I will see you again!”
During one of the course observations, Sunny discovered that one of their students had a talent for drawing. This student happened to be a little shy, and so expresses her gratitude through beautiful artwork. After the sessions were concluded, Sunny received a portrait from the student. Sunny has smiling eyes in the drawing, her hair in two braids, and her uniform tidy. Lovely bows offer a finishing touch. Sunny was deeply moved by the portrait infused with so much love and appreciation.
During the online tutoring program, the team encouraged and supported one another, and together, fostered a truly caring atmosphere as they balanced the workload and solved any challenges that arose. The team is committed to making joint efforts that improve the program step-by-step, and will strive to accumulate more ways of meeting the needs of students efficiently and with compassion.