Tracy Martin is a current reading/writing tutor at ALOHA Mind Math and a former editorial intern for L.A. Parent Magazine, the latter of which I’m currently interning at. She graduated from Chapman University in May with a bachelor’s in Creative Writing and a minor in Psychology, and she is interested in pursuing both writing and tutoring opportunities now that she graduated. Tracy started tutoring for ALOHA Mind Math in October 2022, where her clientele consists of children ages 4 to 14. My editors at L.A. Parent spoke very highly of Tracy during our onboarding sessions earlier this summer, and since I want to pursue a career in teaching journalism in high schools and advising school newspapers, I wanted to interview Tracy to learn more about her journey working with younger students, what she wished she knew before pursuing her path, and more.
Can you tell me a little bit about your experience working with kids?
I’ve been working with children for a long time now, probably since I was 14 years old. I did the whole babysitting thing [and] I was a camp counselor for the Girl Scouts Twilight Camp, so it was always something that I found a lot of joy in. In college, when I was looking for a place to get some more tutoring experience, I found that ALOHA was a great match for me. I was able to work with kids in an environment that I really enjoyed. I worked with kids from pre-K all the way up to the age of 14, learning how to manage a classroom [and] being in a classroom for the first time. I really enjoyed the bigger age range because it gave me the ability to tutor in different ways; you teach a five-year-old different from how you would help out a 14-year-old, so I found that I was really enjoying having to stretch my abilities a little bit and communicate differently.
What was it like getting that exposure to work with kids? How did your experiences affect your decision to work with kids?
I feel like working with kids is so rewarding in such unique ways. It’s definitely not for everybody. It takes a lot of patience, but I feel like people who do work with kids will tell you that seeing the joy and excitement in them and helping them learn is just really rewarding in a very special way, and making connections and knowing that you’re helping them out and that they’ll remember you for a long time. I’m definitely thinking about this route for my future on the pathway to get my teaching credentials. I would find it a good path for me because I’m able to still be with kids and specifically focus on English. My goal would be to be a high school English teacher, being able to inspire my students and show them that reading classics and learning how to write a good essay is really important. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be torture for them, you know?
How did you hear about ALOHA? What made you want to work for them as opposed to other tutoring centers?
At ALOHA, the tutors there are really amazing; they’ve been there for a very long time and they’re very experienced. From the first time that I walked in for the interview, I could see the kids were always happy to see their tours, and it was never something like they didn’t want to be there. You can always tell that they were happy to see their tutors again, happy to be with their teachers again. So instantly, right off the bat, I could tell that this was a good environment and that the teachers really cared. They have a lot of great methods and thinking towards tutoring and how we work with kids that I agreed with, and that compelled me to work with them. Our class sizes are very small. I think the largest size that we have is five or six students per class. So we’re really focused on one-on-one teaching and really making that connection, and I feel like kids really respond well to that because they feel that I’m able to give them my attention and my care because of the small class sizes, so that was something else that I really looked for in a tutoring place.
Can you tell me a little about your experiences babysitting and working as a camp counselor?
I always found [babysitting] enjoyable. I never hated going to babysit. It’s always fun to see what kids are playing, see what the new video game is, see what the new book is, what all these kids are liking, and see different families. It’s fun learning about different family dynamics, and sibling roles are always fun for me to experience. As for my other role, I was a camp counselor for, I want to say, maybe six summers, six years, and I really enjoyed that. I had a great time working with the other counselors, and it was always fun to meet the girls and help them out with the different crafts and the different activities that we would do. Every year, we would have a different theme, and they wouldn’t know the theme. I think we would reveal the theme or reveal the T-shirts on the first day of camp, and it was always fun to see their excitement. I really did enjoy being a camp counselor, and I think it’s a great summer job for high school-age students, for sure.
How did you find out about the opportunity to intern for L.A. Parent Magazine?
It was through Chapman’s Handshake portal, which is a great resource for college kids. I definitely encourage all college students to utilize Handshake because those people are specifically looking for our experience level, our age, and education. So I feel I definitely get more responses and engagement through Handshake. I applied through Handshake, and then Cassandra Lane reached out through email, and I followed up with some interviews and phone calls. Then I ended up working under Cassandra and Chelsee Lowe.
What were some of the biggest things you took away from this internship? How do they apply to your future opportunities?
I found that I really loved doing interviews. I was able to interview some really cool people, and it was something that I was nervous about. At first, Cassandra asked me if I was wanting to do an interview, and I said yes. I was kind of nervous about it, but I ended up really loving it, and I was able to do a handful of those. During my internship, I was able to interview Kwame Alexander, who is a children’s author, which is right up my alley as a writer in childcare and in tutoring, so I really appreciated that. It was really fun for me to talk with him about his book and theater and all of that, and then I was able to interview the owner of Wagmor Pet Rescue, which is something else I’m passionate about. So I found out I really do love interviews after doing my internship, so it kind of made me find another path to look into after college.
With your minor in Psychology, could you talk about some of the biggest things from there that you were able to start seeing in your students or start applying in your sessions with them?
Something I took away was different attachment styles, which was really interesting to observe with parents and siblings, being able to see that and then maybe changing my approach to how I would work with the kids. If I could see the kid had a very secure attachment and wasn’t fearful of leaving mom or dad and was comfortable in the classroom and comfortable with me, I was able to try different approaches and maybe push things a little bit more because I could feel that they were comfortable and I could do more activities and tutoring approaches. But when I would see that another child was having a more anxious attachment style to a parent, a little more hesitant to leave them, a little bit harder to come into the classroom, I would be a little bit more gentle. I would take it easy, making sure that they felt comfortable with me before I really started pushing in and getting into the material of the class or whatever we were getting into.
Before you started working with kids or tutoring and getting into the field of education, is there anything that you wish you had known before going in?
When I first started, it was always kind of discouraging when a method that I would use with one group of kids didn’t seem to work with another group of kids, and I’d be like, ‘Is it me? Am I the reason this method isn’t working?’ because it worked so well before. I learned that every child really is different, and you’re going to have to change your approach for every individual; not every approach is going to work the same way. You have to be flexible and be able to think on your feet. And just don’t be discouraged if what worked so well for you previously isn’t working or reaching the student this time. Always be flexible.
What other pieces of wisdom or advice would you have for students interested in pursuing childcare or education?
I think if you’re a college student or high school student looking into childcare or tutoring, I definitely think it’s a very rewarding pathway and experience. Even if it’s not going to be a long-term goal of teaching or childcare, it teaches a lot of valuable skills that you can apply to different careers and pathways. It teaches you a lot about communication and patience, and I always encourage people at that age to at least try it for a little bit, just because of all the valuable skills that will come from it.