POSTED ON BEHALF OF EMILY FLEITZ
826 Valencia street is an organization started by Dave Eggers that provides free after school tutoring to students in Berkely, CA. I first heard about it at his talk at the 2011 National Book Festival, and learned more about it via his TEDtalk.
The students range in age and ability. The only necessary constant is that one student is matched with one volunteer tutor. The tutor devotes all of his or her time to this one student to help with whatever he or she needs. All this occurs in a combination publishing house and pirate shop.
As the organization grew, they began going into schools to tutor during the school day, and one school offered a classroom that could be continually staffed by volunteers. They were then asked to produce a book of students’ writing about nonviolence, encouraging students to give their all in the creation of a product that will be sold worldwide. Students grow in their love for learning and are encouraged to follow their passions. Similar organizations have started in New York, Cincinnati, Ireland and elsewhere so it is possible to start this in your own community, or take advantage of a similar organization that might already be present.
Best of all, 826 Valencia Street connects members of the community who have the time and skills with students who need their help. The pirate store brings in people off the street and they can see the tutoring that is happening while they shop. This is not a true classroom but rather brings education outside into the community, creating community building on a macro level. The individual attention allows for the tutor to engage in a student’s preferred learning style and be sensitive of the emotions students bring with them.
AHHH! my cousin lives in Berkeley and has mentioned this pirate shop/tutoring program before and says how they have had great results with creative writing exercises that encourage students to keep writing.
I heard about this resource a short while ago and immediately added it to my lists of things to try in my classroom. I wrote them over the summer – there is a local chapter here in DC – but got no reply. I have since been caught up in the maelstrom of the workaday world in DCPS, but the organization remains on the list and I will hit them up again next summer as I sit down to plan.
My motivation for bringing them into my classroom is to improve my students writing. I work with kids who have ideas and experiences pressing out of every pore. But they don’t always have the discipline or wherewithal to capture this on paper in a meaningful way. I believe this can change if they have mentors to help them. I hope I will be able to make this happen with Dave Eggers group one day soon.