Wolé Parks on the Intrinsic Benefits of Becoming a Volunteer Tutor

“In vain have you acquired knowledge if you do not impart it to others.”

The quote is attributed to Deuteronomy Rabbah circa 450-900, but it’s still relevant today, as actor and volunteer tutor Wolé Parks can attest to.

Parks selflessly gives up his time and shares his knowledge as a volunteer math tutor for School on Wheels. And while volunteering typically means it’s done at no cost, there are many other ways that volunteer tutoring creates value not only for the student but also for the teacher and their greater community at large. 

Benefits To The Student

Wolé Parks believes imparting knowledge on the younger generations can help set them up for success in life. With his own mother – a teacher – showing him the value of education at an early age, Wolé has been passionate about education throughout his life.

Tutoring is different than a traditional classroom setting when there can be 23 or more kids in the same room. Even the most skilled and dedicated teacher may not be able to meet the needs of every child, considering the likely different levels of learning comprehension that everyone has. This may contribute to absenteeism, which is a problem in the U.S. – 2016 stats show more than 6 million students are chronically absent from class. If a student feels that their needs are not being catered towards in class, they could be more apathetic towards attending.

However, numbers from around the same time show that high school graduation rates hit a three-decade high, thanks in part to tutoring programs from organizations such as School on Wheels and the United Way.

Tutoring takes a different approach than the classroom model, and that’s usually one-on-one instruction. That means the student has the tutor’s full attention for the duration of the session, and the tutor can help them work through problems as they encounter them, while spending less time on problems that the students do not struggle on. This can help kids shy away less from subjects that previously caused them frustration while building their self-esteem. They also won’t run the risk of their peers judging them when there’s a math problem on the board they can’t seem to solve.

Of course, adds Wolé Parks, there’s the added benefit that kids who get an adequate education can improve their income potential when they join the workforce, as well as improve their health and overall quality of life.

Benefits To The Tutor

Giving time as a volunteer tutor is not without its rewards. In fact, as Wolé Parks notes, the payoffs may be even as abundant as they are for the children receiving the knowledge – even if you’re not in it for personal gain.

Volunteer tutors can sharpen their skills and keep their brains in shape when they’re engaging in mentally challenging exercises. In fact, volunteer tutoring has been shown to increase brain health and volunteering as a whole can even reduce the risk of dementia, particularly among seniors. In fact, volunteering not only keeps your brain sharper for the duration of your life, but it might even increase your lifespan. Research on the topic shows that those that give for completely selfless reasons have lower mortality rates compared to those who volunteer only for self-gain or not at all.

Tutoring is like being a role model – children will look up to you and potentially form better ideas about child/adult relationships, as well as a healthier attitude toward schooling. You can take the opportunity to share how your own learning has provided greater opportunities throughout your life, as well as talking about some of the struggles you had to overcome to make students feel less isolated. Additionally, Wolé Parks explains that volunteering helps you to bolster the confidence of a child and provide them with a mentor that they might be lacking.

Final Thoughts From Wolé Parks

Tutoring can be a challenge, but you will see the direct benefits as the student learns and grows thanks to your efforts. You may rediscover your own purpose and increase your happiness through social connection, while also bolstering the happiness and confidence of the students you give your time to.

The bottom line, says Wolé Parks, is that you’re making a difference in a child’s life that can carry them through to adulthood and beyond. Education also raises awareness and unites communities, making them stronger. Those who further their education are more likely to be civically engaged, and they are also more likely to continue the positive cycle by becoming volunteer tutors later in life themselves.