APPLICATION DEADLINE: SEPTEMBER 22ND

Before applying, don’t forget to carefully read the information below!

Please note that we have enough volunteers for Riverview on Tuesdays, and are still in need of volunteers Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.

This page is for McGill students interested in volunteering with Homework Zone.

Deadline to apply for the Fall 2014 semester: Monday September 22nd, Midnight.

Do you like working with kids? 

Do you need an outlet for your creativity?

Do you want to explore new neighbourhoods in Montreal? 

Do you want to get involved?

Then you’ve found the right place to look!

We ask from our volunteers an enthusiasm for working with kids as well as a regular, weekly commitment over the course of at least 1 semester. Because this is a mentorship program, commitment is our main focus.

Time Commitment:

3 Hours per week (including travel time to and from the school) for a duration of 10 weeks.

For the Fall 2014 semester, the program begins on  September 30th, 2014 and finishes by December 4th, 2014

For the Winter 2015 semester, the program dates will be confirmed shortly.

Volunteers can choose what day works best…

  1. Tuesday 2-5PM
  2. Wednesday 2-5PM
  3. Thursday 2:30-6:00 PM

3-hour Mandatory Orientation session (Saturday September 27th, 1:00 – 4:00 PM) in Carrefour residence. A catch-up session is offered to the volunteers that cannot attend due to religious restrictions, work, or illness. 

Two 2-hour Reflection Dinners with guest speakers (DATES TBA)

Optional: volunteer as group leader for My Day @ McGill (Late March or early April)

Benefits and Recognition:

  • A Letter of Attestation from the Dean of Students for a minimum of 30 hours
  • A 20% voucher at the McGill Bookstore
  • Volunteering in a group with other McGill students

How to Apply…

Step 1: Fill out the 2014 Homework Zone application form. When marking your availabilities, please keep in mind the time slots mentioned above (see: “time commitment”).

Step 2: E-mail Gabrielle at hz.sede@mcgill.ca with your CV and confirm you filled the above form.

Step 3: Wait for confirmation e-mail.

Note: If you have already volunteered with Homework Zone, please email Gabrielle at hz.sede@mcgill.ca if you would like extra responsibilities as team captain.

DEADLINE FOR THE FALL SESSION IS MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 22ND @ 11:59PM

CAT information

A semester with Homework Zone

This semester, Erin will be writing on the blog about her own experiences with Homework Zone. After reading this beautiful piece, we’re really looking forward to what else she has up her sleeve!

A Semester with Homework Zone

I don’t think that I’m alone in feeling that September, as the month of “back to school,” is like a second January. For students, September can be a chance to either reawaken dormant January resolutions or set some new goals for the new semester. Or, of course, do neither, which is also completely acceptable in my books as we all have a lot on our minds. My own experience with start of semester goals is something like this, I start them, keep up with them for a few weeks, and then promptly forget about them three days before my first midterm. However, this September I am happily continuing with something I decided to start last January: volunteering with Homework Zone.

I’ll skip summarizing what Homework Zone is all about (if you are reading this then you are already on the Homework Zone website, and the About tab is a click away….so go check it out if you haven’t already!) and go straight to talking a bit about my first semester as a mentor.

Last January I signed up to go to Riverview Elementary on Tuesdays from 2-5 for ten weeks. I had a bit of trepidation about signing away three hours of my class-free time a week. After all, three hours every week is not an insignificant commitment and at Homework Zone one of the first things you learn is that you need to be at the school every week. But as soon as I got used to going to Riverview, being there each week was a great counterpoint to my classes in the sense that, unlike a lot of my classes, I actually wanted to be there (as opposed to an 8:35 am class in Leacock 132). There was something about going back to an elementary school, the very beginning of anyone’s school experience, which reminded me of how far I had come in my own education, what each stage had taught me, and how much I had to offer another student. As I got to know my mentee I looked forward to the time we shared together and did not want to miss out on any week. All the kids were an inspiration to be around. Seeing the artwork lining the halls and the pride they took in their accomplishments made me grateful to be able to share a part of their week.

Honestly? I did not sign up for Homework Zone to do the activities. I thought that I would enjoy the time one on one with my mentee when we focused on homework and reading and then I would be gritting my teeth and conjuring up as much feigned enthusiasm as possible when it came time for the workshops. So it was entirely to my surprise when I found myself really enjoying them! In fact, some weeks I may have been more excited than my mentee to find out what the activity was. Perhaps some of my enjoyment came from the fact that in most of the activities the mentors took a back seat and let the kids be the major participants. After being put on the spot a lot when I was younger in group activities, helping out and watching gave me a different appreciation for them. The kids were, for the most part, engaged and enthusiastic about what was going on and that feeling was infectious. Who couldn’t help but enjoy a mini Zumba lesson watching the girls stumble, smile, and slide their way through it? Or feel the allure of pyromania while watching the boys grow more and more captivated with a demonstration about fire? And helping all the kids make felt sticker puppets made me appreciate just how hard it is to peel the white paper off the backside of a sticker.

Being a mentor is both easier and harder than I thought it would be. I hadn’t done any formal work with younger children before doing Homework Zone, so I wasn’t too sure how mentorship was going to feel. Thankfully, with all the support the directors and other mentors of Homework Zone give, as long as you can read, be patient, have some fun, and be able to be a little bit firm becoming a mentor is a pretty effortless transition. I found that by being there, paying attention to my mentee, and listening to the other mentors I learnt the basics of how to interact with the kids. As for everything else I needed to know about being a mentor? You know, who “the Minions” from Despicable Me are, what snack bar flavour tastes the best, where everything is in the library, when activity time is, why the Guinness Book of World Records is so fun to read, and how to boost another person’s confidence… Well, my mentee taught me that.

Going back this semester is a mix of a lot of anticipation and a little bit of anxiety. I’m switching to a new school, Verdun Elementary, because of my schedule so there will be new faces and hallways to learn. I will miss my mentee from last semester, but I also know that she will continue to be her strong and willful self whether or not I’m there to tell her to practice her handwriting. For myself, I hope to continue to grow as a mentor so that I can do my part in showing these kids that by being themselves and learning how to work through the big and small struggles in their lives, they will be able to succeed in any kind of learning.

Erin Bower, U1 Science

A refresher on simple math exercises!

For a lot of volunteers, remembering how to explain simple math problems is surprisingly… difficult. Either because their own math classes date back to high school, or because they haven’t had to think about simple equations in years because it has simply become second nature to them.

The website Math is Fun! offers a nice refresher, and covers everything from long division to fractions, adapted to every grade, with step-by-step instructions. Check it out here: http://www.mathsisfun.com/index.htm

Don’t forget that if you’re ever stuck, you can always ask a fellow volunteer to give you a hand!

Five ways to get kids to want to read and write

Combining academic research and hands-on tips, this article explains how you can instil a love of reading in your mentee (and in any other child in your life, really). You can read it here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/03/28/five-ways-to-get-kids-to-want-to-read-and-write/

Here’s a summary of what would be particularly helpful for Homework Zone volunteers:

  • Talk about the books you read. Talk about them with the kids, with other mentors in front of the kids…. lead by example!
  • If you have a favourite story or book you think your mentee would like, try to find it in the school library, or from the McGill library, and read it together every week. 

Ella Enchanted was definitely in my top 3 when I was ten.

  • Read out loud to your mentee, and make it fun. Act out voices, e-nun-ci-ate, point out the words you read (or get them to point them out), and get really invested in the story. For the first few weeks of the semester, you can read out loud more than you make them read, in order get them used to a “reading voice”. If you’re reading out loud, go for books with more interesting stories, even though – especially if you think they might be too hard for your mentee to read on their own. That’s how you plant the seeds…

If I get one more young person interested in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, my work here is done.

  • Create opportunities where the kids can see their improvement, and keep building on it. If you think your mentee is already pretty good at reading out loud, now encourage them to be more theatrical about it; to emphasize commas and exclamation points, and encourage them along the way. Keep note (really do, with pen and paper!) of the kinds of books they read, and of how long they are able to read without taking a break, and point out the progress they make.
  • Encourage them to write and be creative. You know your mentee better than anyone else in Homework Zone, so you be the judge of when and how to encourage this, but some homework assignments are more prone to creative bending, especially in the 5th and 6th grades. I found that the kids had a ridiculous amount of fun with the synonym and antonym dictionaries I brought over from McGill’s library last semester, and it really helped them with a writing assignment. Keep an eye on the kind of homework they have to do, and don’t hesitate to bring over extra learning tools!

 

Teaching around the Globe: a special Guardian project

The UK paper The Guardian plans to celebrate the UNESCO World Teachers’ Day in a big way on October 5th:

We’re asking teachers around the world to share frontline stories about life inside classrooms. We’d love as many of you as possible to join in by answering the following questions on the form below:

  • What is the biggest challenge you face as a teacher?

  • What do you consider to be the best thing about your country’s education system?

  • What single success are you most proud of in your teaching career?

  • Upload a picture of yourself in your classroom.

Perhaps some Homework Zone friends or alumni would be interested in sharing their stories? The deadline to send in a story is September 19th. We’ll check back again on World Teachers’ Day to share those stories with our kids – and also share stories of our own!

Read more here: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/aug/19/international-teachers-life-classroom-schools

Launching the recruitment campaign soon!

It’s that time of the year again where the Homework Zone team will be plastering the campus with gorgeous posters and enthusiastic class announcements, and tabling… so. much. tabling. All for the pleasure of recruiting new volunteers to Homework Zone! We’ll be launching the campaign officially next week. In the meantime here is a sneak-peak at the poster. What do you think?

If you have any questions about Homework Zone or want to help spread the word, email Gabrielle at hz.sede@mcgill.ca 

 

Fall 2014 poster sneak-peak

McGill Improv brings laughter to Homework Zone

This semester, the wonderful people of McGill Improv visited Riverview, Verdun, and Orchard Elementary schools to introduce our mentees to the art of Improv… and mostly, to have a ton of fun!

The kids really enjoyed the workshops, with the youngest ones literally horsing around, while the oldest ones took it upon themselves to ask Fred and his team a bunch of questions for their video project: when did you start improv? What do you like about it? How can I do some?

Thanks again for the great activity, and looking forward to having you back next semester, McGill Improv!

Riverview students pretending to be at a press scrum

Riverview students pretending to be at a press scrum

 

Mid-term Update from Lucy, the Orchard Team Captain

Going back to Orchard was wonderful. It felt like going back to my own elementary school–something familiar. Second semester was definitely different from the first. I knew what to expect. I knew how to (better) handle my stubborn but wonderful mentee. I knew the subway and bus route, where the classrooms were, the surrounding neighborhood.

But best of all, I knew the younger students. This was definitely the most rewarding part for me. I always wanted little younger brothers and sisters, and I finally had some. (Or maybe way too many.) When we made origami, I had sticky hands extending out to me and shouts of “I want one! Where’s my frog?” and some pushing and shoving to get a better look. We ran out of time and one little boy never fails to ask me week after week “Hey, where’s my frog? You owe me a frog!” My childhood was peaceful as an only child, and I was making up for it now.

When leaving the bed is the most difficult action of the day, and your spirits are low, these happy carefree kids cure you of any lethargy. They look at you like you’re on top of the world, so you can’t help but think you are. My origami frogs were lopsided and contained creases from incorrect folds, but the kids still fought for them like gold. They inspire me in the same way that I hope I inspire them. I remember on the first day, a little wide-eyed 2nd grader was eagerly scanning the crowd of McGill students in search for her old mentor.

“She really wanted to come, but she is in class right now. Do you think she wants to be in class right now when she could be hanging out with you?”

Nothing we said helped. She grew sadder when she saw her two closest friends maintain the same mentors as last semester. When another friendly McGill student came her way, she pouted and refused to acknowledge her new mentor. I feared the worst for the upcoming semester.

But that 2nd grader quickly returned to her bouncy self by the next week and loved her new mentor. It’s a skill I truly admire from these little kids. They forget and forgive. They appreciate and treasure everything. Even we, as mentors in Homework Zone, have something to learn from these kids.

Mid-term Update from Sophie, the Verdun Captain

Reading Week is now over, and we get to head back to our Homework Zone schools this week. Let’s be real: the HZ schools are the only ones we actually want to go back to!

Before the break, the Verdun grade sixers got a good start on the Movie Project that we’re working on this semester.  Not only were the kids really excited about the project, but they also took it and made it their own.  One of my favourite moment was when one of the interviewers decided to go off-script from the standard “What do you like about Homework Zone” questions and ask someone who his cartoon crush was.  Somehow, this ridiculous question took off, and is now a standard for anyone interviewed at Verdun.

In my opinion, there is something about this that is the perfect reflection of what Homework Zone is meant to be.  HZ is a place where the kids are allowed to go off-script and be their quirky selves with the mentors who are almost guaranteed to get quirky with the kids.

We’re also now at that point in the semester when the mentors and mentees know each other quite well.  It’s always fun to see the relationships grow throughout the semester, and it’s hard to believe that those timid kids we met on the first day are now so open and outgoing with us.  It’s also crazy to think that we only have 4 or 5 weeks left with these awesome kids.  This part of the semester has always made me a bit sad because it seems like we have such a short time left to take advantage of getting to know the kids even more.

So, now that we’re starting the second half of Homework Zone, here’s to another 5 weeks of building relationships with the kids, quirkiness… and I guess some homework too!