The Big Sibs Chairs restarted their freshmen tutoring program on Monday, January 4 at the request of Assistant Principal Pupil Services Eleanor Archie after she informed them that more freshmen failed their classes in the second marking period of the first term than in the previous year. The program pairs up freshmen in need of tutoring with Big Sibs who can assist them in their problem area. The tutoring sessions took place on Monday through Thursday in specified rooms on the fifth floor and last from 3:45 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. They are over for the fall term, but Big Sibs hope to restart them later in the spring term.
The program was implemented two years ago, but was discontinued last year because “the need for tutoring was not as great [last year],” Archie said.
“[Tutoring] was an emergency band-aid that was needed [this year],” Archie said. “Big Sibs have a responsibility to ease the transition into Stuyvesant socially and academically.”
Senior and Big Sib Chair John Connuck agreed. “Tutoring was not something we were planning on doing, but it is a real and effective way to help freshmen,” he said.
Big Sib tutoring was also reinstated to supplement the already existing tutoring program of ARISTA, Stuyvesant’s chapter of the National Honor Society, after Academic Intervention Services (AIS), the tutoring program run by the administration, was cancelled due to mid-year budget cuts. However, by the time the Big Sibs restarted tutoring, AIS had already been reinstated with additional funding provided by the Parents’ Association.
Due to the lack of tutoring opportunities at the time, Archie sent out about 50 notices to the parents of the failing students, informing them about the tutoring program and encouraging the students to attend during the start of the third marking period of the fall term. However, tutoring sessions were not made mandatory because “[freshmen] may have other obligations,” senior and Big Sib Chair Alex Genshaft said.
Although 48 notices were returned, only about 30 freshmen regularly attended tutoring. The freshmen that attended were assigned to Big Sibs who had expertise in the subject area they needed help in.
There were about eight to ten freshmen in each session. During the first tutoring session, “almost all the Big Sibs showed up, but as the freshmen paired up with a Big Sib, we had more Big Sibs than we needed,” senior and Big Sib Chair Adeline Yeo said.
Individual and group tutoring sessions were also provided based on the amount of students who requested help, the number of available Big Sib tutors and the number of students interested in a certain subject. The most popular subject areas included music appreciation, mathematics, biology and physics.
Although certain students were invited to Big Sib tutoring, any freshman could utilize the program. “We had students from an honors math class. They were not failing, but wanted extra help,” Yeo said.
Both Big Sibs and students said they saw advantages to having Big Sib tutoring over ARISTA tutoring and AIS.
According to Senior and Big Sib Chair Tara Anantharam, ARISTA and Big Sibs both use peer tutoring, but Big Sib tutoring “has a personal level because Big Sibs know their little sibs better,” she said.
Freshman Sidney Bynum, who was tutored by her Big Sib Dorothy Weldon in mathematics after she expressed that she was struggling in the class, agreed. She was not failing the class, but still wanted tutoring in the subject. “Tutoring is most helpful when it is someone that knows me,” Bynum said. “It is a little more personal.”
Some students find that AIS sessions have too many students per teacher to be able to be really helpful. “It is harder to get individual attention when one math teacher covers several different classes,” sophomore Angela Fan said.
Big Sib tutors are also required to have strong communication skills, which further improves their tutoring. “There is a difference between someone who is knowledgeable and someone who is knowledgeable and can explain information well,” senior and Big Sib Chair Avril Coley said. “When students are selected to be Big Sibs, they need to have strong communication skills.”
The Big Sib Chairs hope to continue tutoring next year. However, because this was a “pilot program that was organized quickly,” they plan to make changes to improve tutoring in the future, Anantharam said.
According to Yeo, one problem that Big Sib tutoring encountered was low attendance. The Big Sib Chairs attributed this issue to a lack of awareness. “We were not anticipating many students because of how quickly [tutoring] started,” she said. Yeo expects the number of students who come to tutoring to increase as more students become familiar with the program
“[Big Sibs] need to get the word out about tutoring,” Anantharam said. “Guidance counselors and teachers should reference us.”
Another aspect they would like to change is the number of Big Sibs who engage in tutoring.
“We ask that all [Big Sibs] tutor. However, since tutoring is relatively new, we are not enforcing this regularly,” Connuck said. “All Big Sibs will be expected to participate [in September].”