The hidden heroes in the midst of the classroom
Every 4th period, senior Liset Ralda heads towards the P.E. hallway to Mr. Brinkman's health class. However, she's learning something vastly different from the content of the health curriculum and what most students learn in class - she's there to gain hands-on experience about the teaching process by working with students.
Currently, Ralda is one of around 40 Blair Leaders Interning for Student Success (BLISS) tutors who intern in classrooms throughout the entire school, supporting both students and teachers. They're right in the midst of students' learning process, and their role can differ depending on the class they tutor. In a math class, they may be checking students' answers and making sure that they don't get lost in the steps of a problem, while in a foreign language class, the tutor may give students extra individual practice.
Students who are interested can register for the course, Educational Leadership, and tutor in a subject that they are passionate about. Melissa Young, the coordinator of the program, believes that the program is an overall valuable experience and especially perfect for students thinking about pursuing a profession in education. "I think this is really an opportunity for students to do that (giving back to their community) [and] say, ‘Here's something that I'm good at or that I'm willing to help other people with,’" Young says.
In senior John Dinkel's case, that “something” is math. After seeing an email about the program last year, he registered for the course this year, and he now tutors students in Algebra II with math teacher Bryce Shemer. Having enjoyed tutoring at a summer camp, he leapt at the opportunity to tutor when he had a free period on his schedule.
One reason why student tutors enjoy the BLISS program is that tutoring is one of the best ways to learn and reinforce concepts, as Dinkel agrees. After putting in a lot of work to understand a concept, there is no better satisfaction than helping others understand it as well. "Being able to go back, revisit it, and also… help other people get that stuff down, it's kind of fun, " Dinkel says.
There is a great deal to gain from BLISS as it not only allows tutors to participate in the teaching environment, but it also allows them to form meaningful relationships with their peers. Ralda particularly values the opportunity to connect and engage with peers after more than a year of virtual school. "During the pandemic, I lost a lot of friends, but they made me realize that friendship is really meaningful. All the time I spent with them were good memories," Ralda says.
Being fluent in Spanish, Ralda interns in a class with many ESOL and Spanish-speaking students. The presence of a multilingual BLISS tutor is an invaluable assistance in these classes, as they can repeat and explain directions in Spanish to students, increasing engagement in the classroom.
Other than helping the students in class, every BLISS tutor is assigned reflections to submit to Young as part of the course. These reflections are based on observations in the classroom or on readings and videos about the methodology of teaching.
Teachers also find that BLISS tutors are immensely helpful in the classroom, serving as an additional resource for the students and even as authoritative figures. Bryce Schemer, an on-level and honors Algebra II teacher, has multiple BLISS tutors in his classroom, and he stresses the important role that the tutors play in the classroom. "Don't take away BLISS tutors, keep them going, keep them going. It's crucial, … because sometimes students aren't comfortable talking to the teacher, but they feel comfortable with their peers," Schemer says.
Additionally, they can always bring a fresh perspective on how they approached challenges that students might face in class. Shemer describes how having student tutors are especially helpful in a subject area such as math, where there can be many approaches to solve problems."[Students can be like] I remember this lesson [and] I struggled with this part. I recognize that you're struggling with the same type of issue [and] this is how I figured it out because maybe [the teacher's] method doesn't work for you," Shemer says.
Recently, Representative Jamie Raskin honored the contribution of BLISS Tutors (specifically Ralda and Dinkel, as well as Principal Renay Johnson) as local heroes. This recognition was an opportunity for the program to reconnect with the Raskin family, as the program was originally co-founded in 2011 by Tommy Raskin. To this day, BLISS adheres to its original intention of helping those who need additional academic support, acting as part of Raskin's legacy.
Both Dinkel and Ralda were extremely honored and proud to have received recognition and to have represented BLISS. "I really think it was more of the BLISS tutors [as a whole] that they were recognizing," Dinkel says.
BLISS is an opportunity and resource for all, whether it be for the tutors themselves or the students and teachers they are helping. As Representative Raskin puts in his recognition, "[BLISS] is great for the people who are being tutored, and it's great for the students who are tutoring; lots of friendships and relationships are formed," Raskin says.
To become a BLISS Tutor, contact Melissa Young at Melissa_Young@mcpsmd.org or sign up for the Educational Leadership course.
Isabelle Yang. Hi! I'm Isabelle (she/her). Outside of SCO, I love to listen to music, hike and solve puzzles. More »