In his first year as a volunteer tutor [www.aarp.org/ecvolunteer] at Solomon Solis Cohen Elementary, Roosevelt Woods was awed at times by the energy of his students and the veteran kindergarten teacher he worked alongside during the school year.
An artist, Mr. Woods had signed up to become a tutor with AARP Experience Corps Philadelphia [www.aarp.org/ecphilly]. Though there had been an extensive training before he set foot in the classroom, and he was well prepared with exercises and resources to do the job, he still didn’t know what to expect. What he was less prepared for, and sometimes nearly overwhelmed by, was the wonder with which he would face each day with the students in his school.
Roosevelt says his teacher was instrumental in his first-year success. She gave him the time to explore and figure out how to be a mentor to all of the 29 children in the classroom, even though he was focusing on six students.
His teacher encouraged Woods to share his art, so he brought in his puppet, “Robert the Rabbit Magician” to help his students learn different concepts. He also brought in crayons, activity and coloring books for the whole class, encouraging them to draw.
“They gave me their work, executed at lunch time…they improvised on Styrofoam plates,” He remembers, “It was grand.”
Roosevelt spent the year teaching six children the basics of reading. He says all of the children advanced with a slow but steady pace as they worked. One of the six gave him a story towards the end of the year. In it, she told the tale of “The Red Spike,” a super hero who helped everyone. It turned out the story was about him. He created some graphics to help tell the story and presented it back to her as a gift (see photo above).
“My whole journey as an Experience Corps volunteer has been a Godsend.” says Wood. “I have been humbled by this experience.”
To learn more about AARP Experience Corps Philadelphia, visit www.aarp.org/ecphilly. Or contact Loraine Carter at 267-592-4459. If you are outside of Philadelphia, we encourage you to look for other opportunities to work with children in your community by visiting www.createthegood.org.