supporting Cambridge public school students

Tips & Resources for Volunteers

snailAll volunteering takes place when school is in session. Please refer to the Cambridge Public Schools Academic Calendar for school holidays and vacation closings.

Before you get started as a volunteer, here are some things to keep in mind. Some strategies may be more appropriate for working with elementary students than high school students, or vice versa.


A Few Basic Reminders…

  • Establish a regular schedule so that teachers and students know when to expect you.
  • Take note of the school calendar given to you for holidays and early release days.
  • If you cannot make it to your scheduled volunteer time, be sure to let the school, and if possible, the child and his/her parents, know that ahead of time.
  • Be consistent and follow up with everything you say to your student.
  • Take a moment to reflect. Try to remember what it was like to be the age of your student.
  • Patience is often the key to understanding the student as a younger, less-experienced person.
  • It is important to be aware of and sensitive to the individual needs of the child.
  • Positive feedback and good humor are well received from students struggling to succeed.

During the Initial Meeting…

  • Introduce yourself. Share a bit about yourself and why you may be interested in and available for tutoring. Take the opportunity to meet both the teacher and student.
  • Discuss the student’s specific tutoring needs in relation to class work. Find out what the student’s homework load usually consists of. Include both teacher and student in this conversation regarding areas of need. This is a good time for both tutor and student to hear the teacher’s expectations and agree to the tutorial focus.
  • Commit to a weekly schedule for the tutoring sessions. Exchange contact information in the case of schedule conflicts or change (phone and/or email). Confirm the first meeting date.
  • It can also be helpful to take a moment to speak with the teacher alone about the student’s learning style and/or special needs.

Managing Student Behavior…

  • Building trust and setting boundaries are essential factors in establishing an effective learning environment.
  • Set clear boundaries and goals from day one. Be sure to explain why you are there. Maintain a firm and friendly demeanor.
  • Be precise and specific when directing students. Make sure you have their undivided attention before placing expectations on them.
  • Never argue with a student. Avoid an escalating situation. If a student refuses to follow your instructions, consult with the teacher in charge.
  • Reinforce positive behavior! Catch students being good. Give lots of attention for appropriate behavior.
  • Allow movement, especially for younger students. Let them move around and/or stretch. Take a break when necessary.

Tutoring Session Outline…

  • Check-in: Ask the student how they are doing. How was their day?
  • Set goals for the session. Take a look at what the homework load is for the day. Which assignments will they need help with? Which can they do on their own? If the student you are tutoring does not have a lot of homework, take the opportunity to help them get organized. Empty their book bag, organize papers, make a “homework folder”, or make a calendar to keep track of future assignments (especially for future projects that may be due).
  • Show your student creative ways to answer questions. Articulate and explain concepts in a way the student can understand.
  • Always encourage students to answer questions themselves. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t worry…this is an opportunity to show students how to find answers using resources.
  • Praise comes in many forms. Positive feedback will increase the student’s confidence. Use specific positive feedback and encouraging words. Some tutors use tools like stickers with a small notebook to keep track of accomplishments.
  • Agree when the next tutoring session will be.
  • Stay in contact with the student’s teachers to assess progress of student.