Ahoy! Now hear this! Volunteer teachers needed
Boston — What are David Harris, an American Airlines pilot, and Rolline Evans, a New England Conservatory graduate and octogenarian, doing back in Boston's public schools?
Not worrying about their report cards, that's for sure.
They're working as volunteers under the auspices of School Volunteers for Boston.
SVB, a private, nonprofit corporation, was founded in 1966 in response to the mushrooming need for special educational programs created by federal legislation. Since then, SVB has placed thousands of concerned parents, children , professionals, and community leaders as volunteers, serving in a variety of ways throughout the Boston school system. In 1981 alone there were more than 2, 800 participants.
In its initial stages the program consisted of tutors and library volunteers handling English as a second language (ESL).
The organization quickly expanded to include tutoring in math, English, and reading and since then has gradually begun to offer a wide variety of cultural enrichment and community-based programs - serving a vital function in a school system which, like many others today, is financially hard pressed to maintain instruction in the basics.
Since its inception SVB has served as a role model itself. SVB was instrumental in starting the National School Volunteer Organization 10 years ago and the one in Massachusetts this year.
SVB can take credit for bringing libraries to Boston's elementary schools - in 1966 there were none.
''The key to our success is our continued emphasis on supplementing and supporting, not supplanting, the teachers and administrators in the school system,'' notes Peggy McKibben, SVB's public relations manager.
''We don't try to do the teachers' job for them. Most teachers would love to give time to each one of their students, but they just don't have it to give. We can provide those extras.''
Who are the volunteers, how do they get involved, and what are some of SVB's programs?
Linda Macgregor, a district coordinator with SVB, observes: ''We take people who care about children, education, and their communities and get them involved by putting them to use where their efforts are needed most - directly helping their local school system.
''We recruit in all sorts of ways for some 16 different programs. The intergenerational program has been a successful addition over the last few years ,'' Ms. Macgregor comments. ''We go through pre-retirement programs, the newsletter at city hall, and, as with all of them, through word of mouth.''
She adds that not only is it a means for senior citizens and retirees to remain active, but greatly assists existing tutorial programs to increase reading and writing skills.
''The students interview volunteers from their community, which increases their appreciation of another generation's experience; in compiling these oral histories, the students sharpen their research and writing skills as well.'' She continues, ''They also make great friends, which benefits both the volunteers and the students.''
All volunteering takes place during regular school hours. Tutors receive free training courses in reading, math, and ESL, taught by professionals. This training can also be taken for three units of college credit.
In 1981, the largest number of volunteers were involved with the career education program, a program in a workshop, question-and-answer format which brought working professionals into the schools.
The volunteer guests in this program have included, among others, Archibald Cox, former special Watergate prosecutor; state Rep. Mel King; and Kay Worden, a sculptor and social activist.
After Mr. Cox's visit, one student observed, ''He was great - he really cared about what we thought. And made us think, too!''
Ms. McKibben notes that ''teachers stress to us that volunteers coming directly from their jobs serve as wonderful role models to the students. Their very presence in the schools makes the students aware of how much jobs depend on education.''
A common thread through many of the programs is volunteers serving as role models and inspiring the students.
The community-based learning program (CBL), funded for the last three years by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, brings junior high school students, parents, and teachers together to find and enjoy the educational wealth of neighborhoods. It has proved particulary valuable in areas where many of the students have been bused in.
Students at the Mary Curley School visited artists' studios a few blocks from their school, and technical terms like ''etching'' took on new meaning. A CBL tour of a Roslindale Co-Operative Bank reemphasized the connection between careers and education for Irving School students.
In 1968, the Prudential Life Insurance Company began a time-release program in which employees are released to volunteer during the workday. Last year, more than 50 volunteers from Boston businesses and federal agencies were released during the workday to volunteer for half a day per week.
A released-time volunteer from New England Mutual Life Insurance Company commented: ''I feel like it was a learning experience for me. The youngsters came from many different backgrounds and had many problems. It was wonderful to be there to help as they learned and played together. I felt like a more rounded person for having that experience, and I also felt more relaxed at work.''
Says Ms. McKibben, ''We serve such a vital function, and the school officials really appreciate our presence. If I had to say what our biggest problem is, it would have to be satisfying all the requests we have for volunteers.''