For Kimarie, Remote Tutoring is Working

June 22, 2022

One of the things about high-impact tutoring online is that students have the opportunity to get a sneak peek into the lives of their tutors. Kimarie, a ninth grader from Anacostia High School in Washington DC, got to meet his tutor’s dog.

Meet the Dog
“When I first started working with Kimarie, initially he was really shy. He had his mask and hoodie on, and I couldn’t really see him. He wasn’t very happy about doing online tutoring. There were times when he showed up late. But as we got to know each other, I’d ask him how his day was, what he was up to, what kinds of shows he was watching, and just general conversation,” said Darian Bolen, his AmeriCorp member and Saga Fellow.

“If I’m this guy on this computer telling him to do all these math problems, I’ve got to tell him who I am, I’ve got to get to  know him, and start a relationship to make him feel more comfortable. We’d talk about music, and he got to (virtually) meet my dog. Once  he knew who I was, he didn’t mind doing the work. His grades started getting better. Once we were able to work in a 1:1 tutorial setting, it really allowed him to flourish,” said Bolen.

Kimarie admitted things didn’t come easily in the beginning. It may have had something to do with Kimarie’s learning style—he was getting distracted by the other students in the Saga Math Lab. “ When I first started, my grades were horrible.I was nervous and I had low confidence. I couldn’t concentrate and work,” he said.

A New Approach
Before working with Bolen, Site Director Sharanya Balasubramanian tried different solutions, like giving Kimarie his own space to work. “Sitting alone helped a bit, but he was still distracted,” she said.

“Kimarie is a sweet, personable student. He always comes in to say hi and chat, but I think he felt that he was competing with other students. He felt that he couldn’t make a personal connection with his tutor. If he needed help, he might have to wait a minute or two and that didn’t work for him,” she added.

It was time for a new approach.

Enter Saga Connect
Saga Education developed an online high impact tutoring platform–Saga Connect– to continue to support students during the pandemic, which has integrated audio-video conferencing capabilities, and digital math-aware scratchpads and whiteboards for live tutor-student interactions.

Students have access to a greater set of learning tools, simulations and multimedia resources to enhance learning and Balasubramian wanted to see if this new online model worked better for Kimarie.

For Kimarie, “the technology was easy,” he said. The structure of the lessons also helped with his learning. “I knew the routine. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I go online, and Mr. Bolen already had the work set up for me, and he took me through it,” said Kimarie.

He knew that Bolen was prepared for his lessons. “I learned a lot, and I got a lot of progress. It turned out that Kimarie became a Saga Superstar–recognized for his hard work and improvements. But what really made him proud was when “my mother got the call that I did good at Saga,” he said.

Increased Confidence and “Astounding” Improvements

Balasubramanian saw the difference almost right away. “Kimarie and Mr. Bolen have a really good relationship. Kimarie comes in and does his work, and all his questions are answered in a safe space. His confidence has increased so much. He flies through math challenges now. It’s amazing to witness that,” she said.

“The improvements in math skills were astounding. Now he’s doing quadratics, and he does well in his other classes too,” said Bolen.

Bolen said he has a clear message for Kimarie. “First and foremost, I want him to know that I’m tremendously proud of him,” said Bolen. “I want him to go to college. Kimarie can do anything he sets his mind to, as long as he stays focused. Working with Kimarie showed me the real benefit of the Saga program. We can make a difference,” he said.