SOWMA Tutoring

FAQs - SOWMA Tutoring

The SOWMA tutoring program is designed to offer youth experiencing homelessness equitable opportunities for growth and development. Through dedicated Tutors and Site Coordinators, under the guidance of SOWMA’s Program Coordinator and Education Director, SOWMA provides students with academic and social-emotional support, during afterschool hours, throughout the school year.

For the tutoring to be successful at every site, SOWMA relies on teamwork and communication with multiple stakeholders. SOWMA works with representatives from our Partner Sites to ensure that we are abiding by the Site’s expectations and policies. SOWMA utilizes a Site Coordinator at each location to act as a liaison between the Program Partner staff and School on Wheels. SOWMA Site Coordinators help to identify the site and student needs, and communicate with parents and on-site personnel, to ensure tutors and students optimize the tutoring experience.

At Headquarters, SOWMA’s Program Coordinator ensures that every site has sufficient coverage, educational technologies, and materials. The Program Coordinator works closely with the Site Coordinators to ensure that every SOWMA student is receiving care and attention. SOWMA’s Education Director helps to provide training for SOWMA staff and tutors and oversees the effectiveness of our programs, including researching and implementing new ways to provide SOWMA students with access to 21st Century resources and skills.

The goal of our Tutoring Program is to provide SOWMA students with 1-4 hours a week of academic support and positive mentorship. SOWMA focuses exclusively on these two fundamental aspects of development. Students are paired with a positive coach and role model during the tutoring session for the purposes of developing students social, emotional and cognitive abilities. Relationship building is at the forefront of our mission. We recognize that no child achieves his or her true potential without consistent, positive, guiding forces. SOWMA strives to be an additional support for students and to foster their development through coaching and making meaningful connections.

All tutoring sites follow a similar model. The tutoring time is structured so that students have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Tutoring includes a Warm-Up, a Content Period, and a Cool Down. During the Warm-Up, tutors help students with executive functioning and organizational skills. Students gather the materials they need, organize their space, share stories about their day and check-in with tutors about how they are feeling and what they would like to work on. During the content period, students and tutors focus on the academic task at-hand. Site Coordinators provide tutors with supportive educational materials and technologies that help students to best address their assignments. When it is time to Cool Down, usually 10 minutes before the session ends, students put their things away in an organized fashion and secure their homework or other assignments to bring to school the following day. At this time, the tutor and student can decide to chat, play an educational game, or explore topics of interest with the tutor.

Students are encouraged to bring their homework and other academic work to the tutoring session. SOWMA partners with many of the public schools, as well as the parents and students, to learn more about how we can best assist our students. If students do not have homework or school-related assignments, tutors and students will utilize the tutoring time to play educational games including those that help students develop strategy, teamwork, patience and perseverance.

SOWMA is dedicated to building literacy for all students. Literacy is one of the most important factors that determine whether a child graduates high school. Therefore, every site has a SOWMA sponsored lending library with books for all reading levels. SOWMA tutors are trained to encourage reading and literacy will use tutoring time to read to and with students.

SOWMA handpicks books that interest students to foster a love a reading. SOWMA also provides 21st Century technologies at each site. Laptops, iPads and printers are available to help students complete online assignments and research for personal interest or school. Each device is outfitted with educational games and websites that help students practice academic skills. The technologies help SOWMA achieve the goal of providing equitable learning opportunities for its students. 

SOWMA adheres to the Growth Mindset Model for engaging with students. All SOWMA Staff and Tutors are trained in the Growth Mindset Framework to best support our youth. The Growth Mindset Model follows several human growth development principles: positive reframing, prosocial engagement, encouraging positive thought and self-esteem, and developing constructive self-talk. Positive reframing helps students to develop language around problem solving that is solutions-oriented and hope-yielding. Prosocial engagement encourages students to behave, think and speak in ways that fosters friendship and interdependence. Constructive self-talk provides students with strategies to redirect negative thoughts and feelings about self to those that engender perseverance, resilience, acceptance, and love. The underpinning of all the principles is to help students achieve personal greatness. We believe students possess the keys to achieve their best potential and we are here to help them find them.

Examples of these principles include:

  • positive reframing: “This project deadline is impossible to meet” to “The pressure
    to meet this deadline may help me to use my free time more effectively.”
  • prosocial engagement: “These markers are mine, not yours” to “These markers dobelong to me and I care about their maintenance. Please use them carefully and return them when you are done.”
  • encouraging positive thought: “I am just miserable at Math. I hate it” to “I am learning new Math strategies every day. I’m open to trying a new method.”
  • constructive self-talk: “This paper needs to be perfect before I hand it in” to “I need to give this paper my best work. I can start planning in advance how I will write it.”

SOWMA tutors are volunteers. They come from all sectors: corporate, small business, mental health, medicine, law, education and more! We even have some amazing college interns who volunteer in addition to working at our district office. These are professionals and retirees who are dedicated to making a difference and to improving the lives of youth facing homelessness. Every Tutor receives a full orientation and training to support their success at the sites and many bring personal interests and hobbies to share with their students.

There is no guarantee that you will tutor the same student each week; as our students’ families may receive permanent housing without much notice, they often move out quickly during the school year. We give our students transportation passes to return to a SOWMA tutoring site should they want to continue receiving SOWMA services, but there is no guarantee.

Each of our fifteen program sites are different. Students and tutors are not permitted to be alone in a room together, so tutoring usually takes place in an open area with other pairs of tutor/students.

 If you don’t know how to best help your student with their homework, you can ask your Site Coordinator (or your Site Intern) for help with selecting an appropriate activity or finding the necessary resources to best help your student.

Our program is not mandatory for our students; a parent or guardian registers them and is encouraged to attend. Many of our program partners reinforce attendance through their monthly meetings with families. However, this does not mean that attendance is the same every week. Our Site Coordinators try their best to remind students/parents about tutoring and email tutors weekly about tutor and student matches. If your student is not able to attend, the Site Coordinator will try to contact you as soon as they receive notification. Sometimes this happens when the tutoring session begins. If you can’t make tutoring, please contact your Site Coordinator at your earliest convenience. He or she will let you know what to do if you cannot come to tutoring.

If your student ever shares any information that you feel could be harmful to the well being of the child or someone else, it is your obligation as a tutor to report this to your Site Coordinator or to a SOWMA staff member. If you are unsure of the importance of this information, your Site Coordinator will have a better understanding of the magnitude of the information.

Homework is only one part of the School on Wheels experience. Your child should come with homework if they need to complete it. Ultimately, it is up to the parents or guardians if their child does not have to complete homework during tutor time. You can spend the warm-up/content/cool down talking about school, playing or teaching students new games, or reading a book. Our students experience a lot of different stress factors at home and during the school day which can impact their mood and responsiveness during evening tutoring. If this persists, however, feel free to talk to your Site Coordinator.

If you do not feel that you and your student are a good match, or vice versa if your student does not feel that you are a good match, the Site Coordinator can make the necessary changes to accommodate both the tutor and student.

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United Way of Greater Plymouth County

Contact us

School on Wheels - MA
100 Laurel Street
Suite 121
East Bridgewater, Massachusetts 02333


Federal Tax ID 20-1020880