More than math

November 15, 2019

by Ian Kuo

I eagerly applied to become an AmeriCorps member with Saga Education because of its mission to fight educational inequity and because its programmatic objectives are tangible, specific and realistic. I remember developing my own expectations as to what the program would look like in my head, while researching the organization, interviewing, and even training. I pictured a math support system for students built into their school schedule  with the objective of improving students’ fundamental math skills. Saga provided me with the resources and training to be an effective instructional coach. But Saga is more than just math–it’s about relationships and I realized that in numerous ways, in my position, I could also influence a student’s emotional and social growth.

This is one of the realities in which we, as AmeriCorps members, are able to thrive in our service. There is a constant balance that we are able to manage between supporting a student’s math development and how they view themselves as learners.

These mentoring relationships are powerful. Although it takes time to build trust and develop relationships with students, even a few weeks into the school year, I have students, who at first barely wanted to speak  now more willing to share their opinion or attempt to solve a multi-step equation. Building these connections is a process and we still have to take it day by day. I am by no means a unique exception, many other members have a lot to celebrate even so early into the school year.

Every week AmeriCorps members at Saga have the opportunity highlight student achievements:

“Andrea is a Spanish speaker in an English speaking group, and struggled early on to speak up due to the language barrier. As she’s learned more she has gotten more comfortable to speak up and participate in conversations. She still has much more to learn but seems to be more willing to ask for help and try her best without feeling self-conscious.” -Eric Reyes

“I have loved watching the confidence of students grow throughout the weeks. Seeing students who refused to speak with each other out of insecurity now teaching each other how to do things has been incredible. I like that we’re really creating a space where people feel comfortable to make mistakes, etc., knowing that they’re safe in doing so and can figure it out together.” -Stephanie Oakland

We are excited in growth we see in all areas from day 1 to now. If this is where they are after a few months, imagine where they will be at the end of the year.

(Ian Kuo is an AmeriCorps Member at Saga Education serving at Little Village High School in Chicago)