Considering Older Tutors? Here’s What You Need to KnowPosted by AVID Center on 8/20/2019
By Corita Brown, Ph.D., Director of Innovation and Learning, Encore.org
The number of people over 50 with a desire to help young people achieve is growing fast. For the past year, AVID has worked closely with Encore.org to test an expanded tutoring model using older adults (over age 50) as tutors. The encore tutor pilot project, implemented in five school districts nationally, found that older tutors provide many benefits to both the students and teachers and can be integrated into AVID tutorials with minor adaptations to recruitment and training. Based on the pilot results, new materials on recruiting and retaining older tutors will be included in the revised AVID Tutorial Guide, which will be published in 2020!
“The older adults form relationships with the youth—they are there in the bad weather, they mentor the kids, they are committed over the long run, and they have decades of career experience.”
– AVID District Director, encore pilot
Career preparation. Tutors over 50 are able to offer a different type of mentoring than college students. They have already been through college, jobs, and careers. Check out this testimonial from an encore AVID tutor (pictured here).
“The kids are always setting goals, and the older adult tutors can help them set realistic career preparation goals—i.e., what skills do they need in this career, what is important about networking. They talk about the skills the kids need in their career and what it takes to get there.”
– AVID Elective Teacher, encore pilot
Resilience. The older tutor is a caring adult, expanding the students’ web of support.
“In urban education, teachers learn that relationships are what keep students in school, and that’s what the encore tutors provide. One student said to their tutor, ‘When you are here, you make me feel comfortable. You want me to do better.’ At the end of the semester, the kids all gave their adult tutor a card, and he sent individual cards to all of them to thank them. The kids love him.”
– AVID Elective Teacher, encore pilot
Stability and reliability. Close to 100% of the older tutors plan to return to their schools for a second year. Retention rates for older volunteers are typically longer than for younger ones, since college-aged tutors are moving through school and on to their careers.
Got questions about where to find and how to recruit older tutors? Staff at AVID sites that participated in the pilot offer these suggestions.
It’s important to get creative. Recruiting at senior centers may not work. And it’s much more likely you’ll be successful if you talk to people personally (individually or in groups) instead of just leaving flyers. Pilot sites found success by searching for tutors through RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) chapters and local AARP chapter meetings.
In addition, pilot sites successfully recruited retired professionals through:
- The school’s human resources department
- Local teachers’ unions
- Local college alumni associations
- Neighborhood associations, social groups, and local libraries
- Retirees from corporations that fund their programs
- Local STEM-related businesses
- Try to find a contact at the company who can point you to retirees. That’s how several retired engineers from Texas Instruments got involved with AVID in Plano, Texas.
And some pilots recruited students’ grandparents. You can let people know you’re seeking grandparents by sending notes home with students or including a specific ask in a school newsletter.
Pilot sites found it helpful to start with small steps like these:
- Identify two older people you know who might be willing to tutor. Then, ask them to help identify other potential tutors.
- After you get a couple of older tutors in place, train one to help recruit others. They can speak at local community groups, neighborhood associations, trade or professional associations, and faith-based locations.
Modify your recruitment materials to attract encore tutors by:
- Making sure the tone is right for older adults
- Using images in any recruitment materials (print and online) that reflect older adults
- Using language that speaks to older adults, such as, “Bring your lifetime of experience to help students”
Onboarding and Training Tips
The pilot sites did not have to make any major changes in their training for older tutors, but they suggest the following approaches to support greater satisfaction and retention of older tutors.
Offer more individualized and flexible approaches. It helps to break down the process for the older tutors. Start with a meet-and-greet, then let the tutors observe, and then talk to them more specifically about their role and about techniques that work best.
Calm fears about expertise. Many older adults fear they have to be content experts to succeed as AVID tutors. Encourage them to think of themselves as facilitators instead.
Reintroduce tutors to school. Meet the encore tutors at the door of the school on the first day. College students are more used to what it takes to walk into a school these days.
Encourage observation. Bring prospective applicants to the classroom to observe the tutorials. Encourage the older tutors who are already there to assist with the process and share their experience as a tutor with the recruits after the class.
For More Information
Encore.org has prepared a guide that describes 10 best practices for successful engagement of encore talent. If you’re considering the engagement of older tutors, reviewing this guide can save you time and improve outcomes. If you have any questions about the encore tutor pilot, please contact AVID at [email protected].
Corita Brown is the Director of Innovation and Learning at Encore.org. In this capacity, she provides strategic advising and facilitation for local and national nonprofit organizations, institutions, and local governments to innovate, develop, and scale strategies for connecting the generations. Corita has over 20 years’ experience in the nonprofit sector, where she has successfully built the capacity of diverse teams in the nonprofit, community development, and philanthropic realms to develop multigenerational leadership, build cross-sector collaborations, and design policies, practices, and programs to support intergenerational engagement. Corita holds a Master’s in Organizational Psychology and Adult Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in Urban Studies from Temple University. She currently serves as a reviewer for the International Journal of Intergenerational Relations.
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