Guest Post: How We Can Be the Solution

Guest Post: How We Can Be the Solution

Posted October 22nd, 2014 by Kelly Coker with No Comments

On October 8, School on Wheels hosted its first ever Education Panel. This panel, Beyond the Headlines: Be the Solution to Education Barriers, was presented by SPOKES, School on Wheels’ community outreach and advocacy group, in partnership with the Butler University College of Education and Clowes Memorial Hall. Panelists from the medical, educational and social work fields joined together to discuss the hurdles our children, particularly those living in poverty, are facing while offering ways that individuals with any background or ability can help. Thanks to Kelly Coker, one of the members of SPOKES, for sharing some key points and her insights from the evening.

Beyond the Headlines Panelists

Beyond the Headlines Panelists

Sometimes the barriers to education our youth face can seem insurmountable. However, when Beyond The Headlines kicked off and the panelists began to discuss the situations our youth are facing, the conversation soon turned to empowerment and those obstacles seemed so much smaller by the end of the evening.

Dr. Wanda Legrand, Deputy Superintendent for Academics at Indianapolis Public Schools, was the first to speak and focused on how IPS is currently working to address the needs of homeless and low-income learners. “Our goal is to take down the barriers so transitions and meeting benchmarks are easier.”

Dr. Aaron Kalinowski, Chief Executive at Pedigo Health Center at Horizon House and Midtown Medical, talked about the physical challenges faced by these same students. “Chronic homelessness creates toxic stress and damages a child’s chance of learning.”

Dustin Ecker, Fourth grade teacher, explained that his homeless and low-income students often come to him so far behind.  It takes extra effort and extra measures to help close the gaps they are facing.

Crystal Haslett, McKinney-Vento Liaison in Washington Township schools, made us aware that sometimes simply identifying a homeless student is an obstacle to providing help. Students often hide the challenges their families are facing, and schools don’t offer them the very services that would benefit them.

And, Caitlin Gamble, Director of Policy and Research for Hoosiers for Quality Education and the Institute for Quality Education, accurately painted a picture of the challenges faced by state representatives as they work to provide the best policies in the education field. “They cannot be experts on every topic, or every issue within a specific topic.”

beyond the headlines

After the panelists outlined the obstacles they see in each of their professions, the panelists went on to provide insight on how to be part of the solution. They made some great suggestions that on ways that anyone can get involved, including:

  • Step up and ask, “How can I help?”
  • Help make your state representative an expert on education and barriers to low-income learners. Call. Write them.
  • Donate a school uniform, which is one of the biggest barriers for students attending school.
  • Step in to a classroom and help maintain high expectations for these students.  Tutor them, and expect them to do well.

As I walked out the door from Beyond The Headlines, I was empowered. When it comes to education, there is something I can do. There is something everyone can do. The overwhelming sense I got as the panelist spoke was…simply do something. No matter how big, or how small, anything helps. Step up and ask…what can I do? If you ask the right person, you will certainly get an answer!

- Kelly Coker, SPOKES member

If you missed the panel and are curious for more highlights, visit Laura Stelsel’s blog for Kappa Delta Pi about our event or check out some of the evening’s #bethesolution conversation that took place on Twitter.




Video: Reading Comprehension Strategies

Posted October 15th, 2014 by Shalyn with No Comments

Have you ever read a book with a student (or even your own children), and realized that they were listening to the words but were having a difficult time understanding what was happening in the story? These kids were having difficulty with reading comprehension, a complex skill that students commonly struggle with.

Reading comprehension is an extremely complex thinking process that requires students to take the words and sentences that are written, understand what they mean independently and then process their meaning when they’re connected together. To many of us, reading a book and understanding what’s happening in the story may seem like second nature – we’ve been doing it so long that it’s automatic. But for students, it’s a skill that takes a lot of time and practice to become good at, and it’s one of the most vital skills for success in school and life.

Every single time you read with a student, whether it’s during tutoring or in your own life, you’re helping them develop this fundamental skill. It’s not as difficult as it sounds!

Check out our most recent Tutor Tips video below for some great ideas on simple strategies and questions you can use with students to help them improve their reading comprehension every time you read together!

Want more great tips on how to help students with reading comprehension? Check out our “9 Secrets to Help Kids Read Better” blog post or the reading strategies in our Tutor Tips and Techniques!




The Results Are In! #FallforSOW

Posted October 8th, 2014 by Claire with No Comments

Helping kids succeed is truly a community effort, and luckily we get to see the Indianapolis community rally around the kids we serve every day. The passion for education that exists among individuals and corporations in our city is amazing, and our latest campaign, #FallforSOW, was a particularly impressive example of the support our kids have.

#FallforSOW was developed by SPOKES, School on Wheels’ community outreach group.  Through social, networking and educational events, SPOKES works to engage the Indianapolis community in a dialogue regarding the challenges faced by homeless youth as they strive for educational success. SPOKES also helps fill some of School on Wheels’ unmet needs by hosting supply drives, recruiting tutors, serving as advocates in the community and participating in fundraising efforts and events.

This year five corporations joined us for this two-month-long challenge that kicked off August 1, encouraging their employees to collect backpacks and gift cards to help us secure school supplies. These companies posted pictures of what they had collected each week, sharing these images on Facebook and Twitter, and challenging their employees to give even more. Clearly these employees stepped up to the challenge because the results of the drive, which ended September 30, are in and we have some very special winners to congratulate.

Fall for SOW Results

Ice Miller collected the most gift cards, bringing in $490

Royal United Mortgage collected the most backpacks, bringing in 109 backpacks

Other participating corporations included Ernst & Young, Kite Realty and Wilson Kehoe Winingham. Together these corporations, along with Ice Miller and Royal United Mortgage, raised $965 in gift cards and donations as well as collected 173 backpacks. Thanks to efforts like this, we are able to equip our kids with the right supplies to give them what they need to succeed each school day. Thank you to the participating companies and to SPOKES for helping students experiencing homelessness achieve academic success! We couldn’t do it without you.

Inspired to get more involved in supporting our kids? Check out other ways that people have given creatively or learn more about SPOKES today!




Guest Post: 2014 Serve Indiana Award

Posted October 1st, 2014 by Leon Golden with No Comments


School on Wheels is proud to announce that on October 1st we accepted the 2014 Serve Indiana Award for Excellence in Volunteer programs at the IUPUI Campus Center. Serve Indiana is a state office that exists to advance service and volunteerism by informing, connecting, and promoting opportunities and resources that enrich the lives of Hoosiers. We are very lucky to have such dedicated volunteers that work to enrich the lives of the homeless children and families we serve each week. We were honored to have been nominated by volunteer Leon Golden, a three-year veteran tutor at Salvation Army Barton Center, who exemplifies the commitment and passion we seek from the Hoosiers who help us meet our mission each year. Thank you, Leon!

2014 Awardees

2014 Serve Indiana Award Winners

Currently in my third year as an Indy School on Wheels tutor, I’m excited that this organization has won the Serve Indiana Award for Excellence in Volunteer Programs. I was pleased to offer my nomination because of the great work that School on Wheels does with children in our community impacted by homelessness. This award will no doubt further School on Wheels’ mission and make a real difference in the lives of these precious children and their parents.

The importance of education and its role in providing students with the tools to realize their dreams is something dear to my heart; particularly, children faced with multiple challenges fighting an uphill battle. These children need people who will advocate on their behalf, and even more than that, people who will be there to provide help on homework, mentorship, and serve as a source of stability in their oftentimes turbulent lives. Indy School on Wheels is an organization that does an exemplary job of meeting many of these children’s needs.

While the challenges I’ve faced in my own life have not been of the magnitude that many of these children have faced, I do relate to many of them on some level. The role played by many of the adult figures in my life that helped me to succeed, is now a role that I have the opportunity to play in a child’s life.I’ve been thrilled to see School on Wheels extend their programs to IPS schools, with plans to add additional programs in the future.

2014 School on Wheels Staff

School on Wheels staff members and Leon!

I’m thrilled to be a School on Wheels volunteer and I’m proud to be associated with such a great organization!

- Leon Golden, School on Wheels Tutor

Want to get more involved with our programs? Apply to tutor today!




10 Tips for Working With High Energy Kids

Posted September 24th, 2014 by Samantha with No Comments

Have you ever worked with a child who has high energy? Almost anyone who has experience working with children would probably say “yes!”  Our tutors are always looking for new tips to help their students focus, which is the reason we decided to turn this topic into a tutor discussion this past month. We love to offer our tutors a wide variety of workshops and discussions so they can learn more about our kids and gain tips that will help them have a more productive tutoring hour. Plus, we love to see their smiling faces!

Why Can't Jimmy Sit Still?We are so lucky to have tutors with a wide range of knowledge and experience. I often find that they are the best resource when it comes to tips on a successful tutoring hour. Sandra L. Tunis, Ph.D. has been a tutor with School on Wheels for over a year and she has a background in psychology, specifically neuroscience research.  She also has experience as a mother to a son who was diagnosed with ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  In fact, Sandra wrote a book regarding her experience as a parent to a child with ADHD, Why Can’t Jimmy Sit Still?  Helping Children Understand ADHD.

Sandra was our facilitator for this discussion and shared great tips and information on working with high energy children.  Below are 10 major points that Sandra made, as well as some tips from tutors who attended the discussion:

1. It is important to note that ADHD and ADD are different and both have a wide spectrum of behaviors (hyperactivity, impulsivity).

2. As tutors, we are not here to diagnose. Rather, we are here to optimize the tutoring hour and manage the negative behaviors.

3. It is helpful to express your own vulnerability to the student.  It can be anything from telling the student, “I am not strong in math” or “I had a long day.”

Example: Sandra has a hearing impairment and always tells the children. It helps them to feel comfortable and also helps the children know that you are on their same team.

4. There are certain actions or happenings that trigger bad behavior. Transitions are a big trigger. It is important to acknowledge these triggers and set clear limits.

Example: “I notice walking to get a pencil in a calm manner is hard for you; it is distracting the other students.  Could we try walking my way this week and see how it goes?”

5. It is important to clearly and verbally let the children know what you expect.

6. Set up the tutoring hour for them verbally.

Example: “First, we will do the writing prompt.  Next, we will complete your homework and finally we can choose a book or fun educational game to play.

7. Some students respond better to hearing one task at a time so they do not feel overwhelmed. Keep this in mind while providing structure for the tutoring hour.

8. Each child is different, but some non-traditional methods may work to get the kids to re-focus.

Examples: Have the child stand during the hour, getting energy out. Sitting all day can be tough for high energy children. Take a 3 minute break from the work and stretch, do yoga, jumping jacks.

9. Make sure you are giving the children positive praise. They are so used to hearing “Don’t do this” and “No.” Sometimes all they need is some positive reinforcement.

10. Repetition is key! The children are listening and retaining the guidelines you are setting.  They may just need to hear them a couple of times for it to resonate.

These are just a few of the main points and helpful suggestions that came from our discussion.  I would like to thank Sandra for donating her time and knowledge not only to our students every week, but also to our staff and fellow tutors during this session!

Want more tips for tutoring? Check out our Tutor Resources.

Do you have an area of expertise related to tutoring, children or education that you would be willing to share with us? Contact us or let us know in the comments below!