Before Beatriz began volunteering, she had been living in London, quite unhappily, for nearly a year and a half. She worked in a local coffee shop and as an on-call supply teacher for an independent agency, but her heart was in neither. “It is not what I came for,” she tells me. “In the morning you wake up at 7.00 a.m. and wait for a phone call [from the agency]. You cannot have another job, you cannot make more plans. You just have to go in and play teacher for one day.”
When Beatriz heard about the Tutorfair Foundation’s volunteer tutor program through a community of aspiring teachers, things started to change. “[Tutorfair] makes you feel like schools and kids need you. It is not just talk . . . they’re actually doing it,” Beatriz says.
“For me, that was the point [Tutorfair] made me feel confident enough [to think], ‘Okay, I’m here, I can do it.’”
Although she was still working at the coffee shop in the evenings, Beatriz had finally begun to chase her dream of being a teacher. Before long, she was called upon to use that newfound confidence to tackle another challenge: a new student.
“[He was] a Portuguese boy who didn’t know a word of English,” Beatriz explains, sounding a bit nostalgic. “The teacher asked me to stay with him. It was . . . complicated. Everyone thinks that Spanish [Beatriz’s first language] is very similar to Portuguese, but it's not really.
“You need to to think of different ways to communicate. The other children were reading books, and I would sit with him and help him learn simple words and colors to help him communicate with the other kids. That was our main concern: how could we integrate him? How could we help him feel like he could say something?”
I tell Beatriz that that must have taken constant practice and a lot of extra attention. “Definitely,” she says, “but on the last day, he was saying some words in English, and I was like, ‘Wow!’” she claps, laughing. “I felt like I helped him, somehow. Finally!”
Although the story has a happy ending, it reminds Beatriz why she started volunteering in the first place, and she sobers quickly. After a beat, she explains, “I had forgotten a little bit who I am. I got [to London] and needed to [be an adult] and pay my bills and do this and do that and blah, blah, blah.
“Going to the school was like opening a door for me. I knew I needed to do it, that I needed to find a way to do it somehow. My coworkers used to ask, ‘You’re doing this for free?’ And I’d say, ‘It’s brought me back, of course I’m doing it for free!’”
Fortunately for both Beatriz and her students, an opportunity was soon offered that would fulfill her adult responsibilities and her passion for teaching. This fall, Beatriz will return to Woodberry as a full time Teacher’s Assistant, and she couldn’t be happier.
“I’m going to learn a lot,” she says, “but I know where I am going, and that makes you feel confident and full of energy for September.”
Given her well-deserved success, I figure Beatriz might recommend volunteering with the Tutorfair Foundation, but I thought I’d ask her anyway. She doesn't let me down.
“Do it! Do it!” she says giddily. “Try to give it your best, and you will gain a lot in exchange.”
If you're a tutor, teacher or an aspiring educator looking to make a difference, visit the Tutorfair Foundation to find out how you can join the future of tutoring.