As I navigate the gauntlet of a chronic illness, it’s not in isolation as there is a whole world going on around me. Some suggest that as a highly empathic person, I’m supposed to release this empathetic part of my being to focus on my healing. But I’m unable to turn my empathy off. It would be like asking someone with a natural rhythm to turn off tapping to the beat of the music or asking a dog lover to not smile at the sight of the cutest puppy ever! (This could even be akin to a child in school being asked to sit still for an entire day…just saying!)
What Did Our Twisted Tutoring Founder, Amber, Want to Be When She Grew Up?!
You may be unaware, but I was a social worker before becoming an educator. One of the reasons I went into social work was because I wanted to help people. My want to ‘help people’ came from when I would visit my favourite Auntie Nancy at the group home she ran and lived at. I was about ten years of age and went swimming with a teenage girl named ‘Sarah’ and played ball with a twelve-year-old boy named ‘John’ (names have been changed). I should mention that I was the only person in the extended family that would visit and stay with my aunt and uncle at their group home.
The Diagram that Changed the Way I Think and Helped Develop the Foundation of Twisted Tutoring
Very early on in my social work program, we students were shown a diagram. This diagram is still imprinted on me, not only because I am a visual learner, but because I went from the thought of “What is this?!” to “Holy, this may be one of the most important lessons that I’m ever taught!”
It was a diagram of a very small circle encompassed by larger circles. The smallest circle in the middle had the word ‘ME’ in it. Then, it expanded from there. The next circle had the word ‘family’ which made sense to me. However, as the circles expanded, I saw the words ‘mailperson’ and ‘bartender’ in outer circles.
The moment I received the diagram, I couldn’t understand the significance of the mailperson or the bartender. Then, my professor started explaining that one’s life choices have a ripple effect so that every person with whom someone comes into contact, either directly or indirectly, has an effect on their life.
For instance, if you are waiting for an important package to come in the mail, the mailperson can be the person you watch for most on a particular set of days. (Remember, this was ‘back in the day,’ so pre-Amazon; therefore, it wasn’t like these days where people are literally waiting for a delivery!)
Why would the word ‘bartender’ be in there? If a bartender stops serving someone and helps them make a better life choice as a result, the bartender may be instrumental in preventing someone else from being impacted negatively.
In other words, all of our choices, more than being ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ have ripples. I feel like this sentence can stand as a sentence unto itself—if you picture the diagram and picture a choice, you can start to really feel the effects of that ripple. I am not able to find the diagram from almost thirty years ago, but I’ve found something similar to give you an idea.
Empathetic Nature of a Tutoring CEO
Back to my empathetic nature…
My social work jobs were quite intense, and the nature of the work often left me wanting to take everyone home to help them! Just for the record, I didn’t physically take anyone home; but, as Ram Dass famously said, “We’re all just walking each other home,” and I found so much beauty in that idea. What I learned was that I needed to work where I could effect change. So, I jumped—actually, cold-water plunged—into education!
I saw such potential in being able to effect change in a person’s life through education. Here are a couple of examples:
- In most of my social work jobs, privacy laws prevented me from phoning home to see why a child didn’t show up or see what support the family needed. (Phoning home was encouraged in education!)
- Unless a client was mandated to see me (by a parole officer or the like), clients could choose to not show up consistently for their appointments. (If a child doesn’t show up consistently for school, you can investigate to see what’s wrong and how best to support the child to come to school.)
- Privacy laws prevented me from linking a child to other resources. (In education, I could link a child up with physical resources such as food and clothing, as well as social/emotional resources such as social-skills groups and counselling.)
I could effect REAL change and live my childhood dream of helping people!
The Reality of the Last Couple of Years
I had started to feel ineffective these past couple of years in light of incidents regarding society’s more vulnerable populations.
This feeling of being ineffective caused me to do a lot of reading on and connecting with the First Nations population. It’s been heartbreaking. When reading, I’ve had to put the books down at times as the atrocities have made me physically ill. And in connecting, I’ve had to remind myself on repeat to not take on an individual’s pain but be there for them as they share their experience.
My biggest sorrow lies in the fact that nobody did anything. We heard of Anne Frank in relation to the Nazi atrocities and the underground railways in relation to the slave trade, but where were those types of people during the crises faced by the First Nations populations? I have been wrestling with this and really meditating on my effectiveness.
What has come out of all of this reflection, reading, and connecting is my understanding that vulnerable populations need people to view them as human beings first and foremost. From there, we can begin to champion individuals.
Our Twisted Tutoring Process
As I mentioned, one of the reasons I went into social work and then education was because I wanted to help people. In the midst of this turmoil inside of me, something came full circle for me.
Part of our Twisted Process is to have two Questionnaires filled out: a Parent Questionnaire and a Learner Questionnaire. In viewing the Questionnaires, one might be able to tell that I am a social worker and a teacher by trade—there are a lot of intense, purposeful questions! These Questionnaires give us an in-depth understanding of the Twisted Learner.
Once our team reads these Questionnaires, we pair the Twisted Learner up with a Twisted Tutor and have an Initial Tutoring Meeting. These are quite involved meetings where we develop rapport with the Twisted Learner, discuss the support needed, and formulate a plan of success. An equally important goal is to have Learners leave the meeting more excited about tutoring than they were coming into the meeting.
I was facilitating the first Initial Tutoring Meeting of 2023 late on Friday night. I usually bring a lot of energy to these meetings and, as we know, my energy has been compromised lately. I was a little nervous going into this meeting as each Questionnaire submitted had only a couple of questions actually answered. (I’ve never had Questionnaires with so few answers.) This can be an indication that I will have to bring my energy A-game!
First Initial Tutoring Meeting of 2023
To set the stage, it was fairly late on a Friday night, the first Friday in January—everybody had just returned back to school after the holidays. The online meeting began, and the Twisted Learner was in an office with a person behind them. I wasn’t sure if this person was ‘in’ the meeting or just in the room where the meeting was happening. (Typically, the Twisted Learner and their family are sitting at the camera together.)
Something compelled me to not ask too many personal questions at the beginning. Instead, I just asked the Learner to walk us through a typical day at school. (Often, I’ll engage the Twisted Learner with personal questions to establish rapport.)
Even as I started with simple school-based questions, the Twisted Learner was engaged, helpful, smiling, and willing to participate. The meeting flowed and we got all the info we needed to make an effective plan to move forward to support them!
In gathering info for the contract at the end of the meeting, it turns out that this Twisted Learner is a guardian of the province and lives in a group home. This individual was doing the meeting in the office of the group home.
Things Coming Full Circle
It turns out it was the Learner’s schoolteacher who had found us and gathered the funds to pay for this Learner’s tutoring.
The entire staff of the group home rallied around to make this tutoring happen, including getting the paperwork in and participating in the meeting.
After the meeting finished and I had typed up the post-meeting to-do’s, I texted the group home manager. At 9:30 pm on a Friday night, while she wasn’t at work, she engaged so we could ensure success for this Learner.
The house manager also suggested that we, at Tutoring…With A Twist, “must be good” as this Learner is typically not an individual that engages from the get-go.
And BOOM, the full circle moment hit me, and I had a good little cry. And I knew I’d have to share this as part of my journey with all of you.
As I mentioned, I started from a young age wanting to ‘help people’ due to the fact that I would visit my aunt who was a social worker at her home, which was a group home. ‘Sarah’ the teenager whom I went swimming with was prostituted from an early age and had her ear ripped off by her pimp. ‘John’ was apprehended for bombing white vans; upon investigation, he had been abducted in a white van at a young age and brutally assaulted for years.
My aunt shared this information about ‘Sarah’ and ‘John’ with me after I was a social worker. It was important for me to know that it was my ability to see these individuals as humans and give them my energy that was a turning point in all of our lives.
Expressing Gratitude to Our Tutoring Team
We are able to be more powerful because we are a TEAM. So, while I often hear that we are ‘good’ (and I mean we are!), it’s really because we ALL see our Twisted Learners as humans, and we champion them.
When you choose to support us and trust us with your child(ren), you are helping us also support:
- families that have recently been homeless.
- families whose children live in and out of hospital wards.
- children who are in the care of the ministry.
- children who are transitioning between genders.
- children whose parents are terminal or have just passed away.
- children who feel pressure to achieve unattainable perfection.
- children who have never felt seen or motivated to invest in themselves.
- children whose families had no idea how to reach them.
- parents who are in tears and aren’t sure if they are succeeding as a parent.
Tutoring Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
I am privileged to get up every day and make a difference with my Twisted Team.
In having one of my biggest ME/CFS crashes to date, I did a lot of deep breathing and putting trust that everything will work out as it should. In order to get through a crash, I have to be able to practice Aggressive Rest Therapy. This essentially means lying down doing almost nothing. But in a crash, I am typically in a lot of pain so it’s not comfy resting. I have found that if I focus on the pain as a sensation telling me something, it helps me to get through it.
Another powerful piece that helps me get through it is to be aware of what I have to be grateful for. One of my gratitude focuses is on our Twisted Tutoring Team. In some of the toughest moments of my life, I feel so grateful that we are creating these amazing ripples.
‘Teamwork Makes the Dream Work’ is not just a cutesy saying but is such an integral part of our programming that it’s part of the ‘circles’ in our Twisted Logo.
You, Too, are Part of the Ripple Effect
Don’t forget that YOU are also part of the Ripple Effect. Just consider how you fit into the circle diagram for everyone in your life.
Go look in the mirror. (I’ll wait…)
Now, look into your own eyes and feel the appreciation for you being in the world!
Next time you’re feeling heavy with the craziness of the bigger world or your own personal world, I invite you to stop what you’re doing and go find a mirror to look into.
Really pause and let it sink in that, for even the smallest ripples you create, someone is grateful.