Are you involved in peer tutoring at your high school? This is a program in which students can teach other students who have difficulty in a particular subject. It is a wonderful experience that not only gives a person the satisfaction of teaching another, but it also helps the student more than a teacher sometimes would. To be honest, I became a peer tutor because I needed an extra class. Little did I know that this class would eventually teach me some of life's most important lessons.
Every day, I spend 45 minutes in the library tutoring other students. When I think of what peer tutoring is all about, one girl comes to mind. Her name is Asli, an eighteen-year-old exchange student from Turkey. She came to America knowing no English. With great courage and a keen desire, she came to the tutoring class, hoping to improve her broken English. Having been to foreign countries myself, I knew how hard it was to immerse oneself in a foreign culture and speak the native language. I volunteered to teach her, hoping to make assimilation into America a bit easier.
Sometimes, it can be a real adventure to teach a foreigner, and other times a great pleasure and cultural experience. For example. I was dumbfounded when she asked the meaning of "so." It is a very simple word that most Americans use all the time, but when it comes to explaining it, it is a totally different story. Since I couldn't think of an exact definition, I spent about ten minutes giving her examples of how one uses the word "so." Asli gave me a smile of confidence that penetrated deeply into my heart. Now, Asli frequently uses this simple word as well as the other phrases and idioms we have taught her, just like a native English speaker.
Helping Asli with her homework, or even explaining some simple grammar can lead to cultural discussions that help both me and her to understand each other's culture and way of life. For example, while I was helping her read about different cultures for Global Insights class, she explained how her culture in Turkey was different from ours. I learned that the people there are so friendly that a person may invite another over for dinner only five minutes after meeting. She also talked about the special religious customs such as Ramadan, the month of fasting in the Islamic religion, and how the youth deeply respect their elders. She described her home back in Turkey and her way of life in such vivid details, that it reminded me of my homeland and the country where I came from. It was easy for me to sympathize with her because I had immigrated to America from India several years ago, and I went through then what she is going through now. I decided to talk about my assimilation into America and the Indian traditions I have kept as well as abandoned. Our religions and cultures, we agreed, were sometimes very difficult to uphold in America. We shared many of the same sad emotions when we discussed how hard it was to keep in contact with family back home.
Peer tutoring is definitely a rewarding way to serve the community. Teaching another person something also encourages the peer tutor to be patient, understanding, and sensitive to the student's needs. There was also a great cultural exchange: seeing Asli speaking excellent English as if she is an American herself, while just a few months ago, she struggled to blurt out a few words. I've learned more lessons in this class than I have in any other. Certainly, I've realized the benefits of teaching, learning and cooperating. I strongly recommend participation in a peer tutoring activity. fl
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.