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Heart Tutoring’s Kelsey Ripley is a Guest Writer for the Community Resilience Project’s December 2020 Newsletter

January 7, 2021

Our own Kelsey Ripley was a guest writer for the Community Resilience Project December 2020 Newsletter. Read her reflections on six months of virtual tutoring below!

One Word: Hope

Dear Community Resilience Project Family,

We have finally arrived. Together, we have made it to the end of 2020. What words would you use to describe this year? I sat down to write this letter and began with that question. In thinking about my own answer, words like crisis, grief, and exhaustion quickly bubbled to the surface. Within minutes, I had lines scribble with pained words reflecting what has been a challenging year. Then, I turned the page. And I found another word, waiting patiently to be included: Hope.

I work in education, for a local non-profit called Heart Math Tutoring whose mission is to ensure that all elementary students develop the strong foundation in math and enthusiasm for academics needed for long-term success, by helping schools use volunteers as tutors. This year, we have locked arms with school communities to transition our program to a virtual model. Every week, tutors are logging into Zoom to work with elementary students virtually. We use a combination of an interactive whiteboard platform and math materials mailed home to students.

Sometimes a device isn’t working well, and our staff help guide students through a series of technology checks to see if we can improve the connection. Sometimes the students don’t have their math materials with them that day, and tutors improvise by asking if they can find a few pieces of cereal or dried pasta to help them count. We do “brain breaks” that involve everything from jumping jacks to dance moves. (Last week, a student challenged her tutor to do a handstand, and he did it!) We ask students at the end of each session to reflect on their learning and share with us something they are proud of or enjoyed. Recently, a 3rd grader told us, I feel confident that I can do hard problems.”

We’ve been tutoring virtually for about six months, and in that time, we’ve tackled some hard problems. We’ve also had the opportunity to get to know students and glimpse into their lives in entirely new ways. Students share their thinking about math in all kinds of spaces: their desk at home, the backseat of the car, while making lunch, or sitting in a daycare classroom. We’ve met siblings, pets, and favorite stuffed animals. We’ve spoken with parents, grandparents, and babysitters. Like everyone, we are doing this all with the backdrop of crisis-driven school calendar changes, limited resources, and an understanding of virtual learning that we are building as we go.


When we focus on what is missing, we forfeit the opportunity to celebrate what is tenaciously, brilliantly showing up right in front of us.

When I get stuck on those initial words describing 2020 – crisis, grief, pain – I miss those other words that are just as true, waiting around every corner – hope, creativity, resilience. The latter does not cancel out the former. As we enter a new year, our challenge is not to ignore the pain of these recent months, but to insist on seeing the hope coursing through it. Some days this is easier than others. My challenge to you, and to myself, is to point to a source of hope today. I am confident that when we decide to look, we’ll find it waiting for us.

With hope and gratitude,
Kelsey Ripley



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