What’s to Gain as A Volunteer Tutor

Jan 29, 2019   |   Lauren Shak

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Hi, I’m Lauren Shak, a JC2 student from Raffles Institution.

Having been inspired by a talk in my school when I was a JAE student last year, I signed up for the Heartware Tuition Programme (HWTP). I tutored a child from Seng Kang Primary school, which was very convenient because I live nearby.

Being part of HWTP made me feel like I was a part of something that extended beyond my school life. A student’s life mostly centres around school, with classmates and CCA mates as our main groups of friends. We live in an isolated bubble here. There’s really no euphemism for the dreariness of college. There’s a lot of stress about doing well, not letting yourself down, and a lot of time dedicated to academics and the CCA season.

Take-away #1: Being in HWTP got me interacting with people I don’t usually surround myself with.


While I started out in the programme as an avenue to clock my VIA hours needed for the Raffles Diploma, I started to enjoy it over time.

Volunteering kick-started a lot of introspection. People struggle with many problems, some you can’t help with, and some you can. The things that we can help make better, we should really grab the opportunity for. Someone was there to help me when I struggled, and while they couldn’t make it go away, they sure made it better. I know what it means to be helped, and I realised that this was the reason why I should help.

Community work is incredibly important, and helping others is a mindset everyone should have. It’s really important that youths learn to give, even if that desire doesn’t develop yet or the concept doesn’t make much sense. I’m blessed to have the privileges I do, and it’s significant that I don’t forget that or take it for granted.

Take-away #2: HWTP was a clean-cut, well-organised way to give back to the community.

Volunteer tutor training with like-minded friends.

I have a hard time with patience. When I was younger, I had a very questionable temper and used to get irritated by absolutely everything.

My friends in secondary school struggled with studies more than I did, and I could never understand why they didn’t ask me for help. I found out the hard way that I was a very difficult teacher. One of my closest friends said, “I always feel like I’m letting you down.” I was upset to hear that, but that’s how it clicked that patience was what I lacked, and that I had to do better.

People aren’t just naturally good at everything. As life goes on, you have to colour in the parts you don’t already have. So HWTP was risky as much as it was good for me, having to formally teaching someone a lot younger, and knowing that it might be difficult and frustrating if I can’t bridge our age gap.

I eventually got a lot better at teaching people . Teaching my tutee, I was mindful to avoid making her feel like she was disappointing me, and instead made sure she knew I knew that she was doing her best. And if she wasn’t, then well, I just told her so. When she didn’t understand concepts, instead of wasting my time getting annoyed, I taught her again but in a different way I thought would work better. It was really a sort of empathetic awakening. I learnt to consider the other person’s intentions, and how they would feel if I got frustrated, and whether or not it was their fault at all.

In this case, it was logical that the people I teach were not purposely trying to frustrate me, and they were really trying their best. The ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes helps you go a long way. Things happen a lot smoother when people are trying to cooperate and create an all-win situation. I exercised this mindset a lot during HWTP, and I hope to continue exercising it.

Take-away #3: Anticipate personal growth. A lot of communication skills just waiting to be practiced in this programme.


Patience is one of the most important qualities needed in a tutor. 

My tutee was not strong with concept application or word problems – something she didn’t point out to me, so I don’t think she knew she wasn’t very good at it.

At first she wasn’t improving much. But as I tweaked the way I taught her, eventually something clicked. Really, I was surprised! It was just this one lesson in which she was able to handle various word problems on her own while I watched on. They were questions we had tried previously, but she had always ended up needing nudges. That moment was worth it.

I tutor her once a week for only 2 hours. That might seem insufficient, but because the tutoring is 1-on-1 or 1-on-2, I could focus solely on her learning. This high level of engagement over a long-term period makes it possible for me to find out her strengths and weaknesses and create a way of study that works for her.

I also bonded with her, and you find that despite the age gap, these children were relatable. She likes to read a lot, especially Geronimo Stilton, which she would show me snippets of when we were taking short breaks. She also likes to draw. She always forgets to bring her calculator, very relatable. I think she’s on her school library’s wall of top readers. Her favourite subject is English. Almost all these things we have in common. So it’s not just the teaching, it’s also forming a relationship with someone, and supporting them, which is what you are there to do.

 Take-away #4: It’s not just the teaching, it’s also forming a relationship with someone, and supporting them, which is what you are there to do.


Peers spending 2 hours a week to tutor a child for 3 school terms.

I’m taking A levels this year and there are exams almost every other month, so I have to be very careful with the commitments I take up. There wasn’t an inner debate when I decided to continue TP19; I was going to do it anyway.

I do this partially because I think impact is directly proportional to effort. I didn’t want to do it for just this one year and forget about it. I plan to do community work for a very long time, and if this was an outlet for it, and I liked it, stars aligned, I can’t see why I had to contemplate dropping HWTP.

Invited to share my HWTP experience with the new JC1 cohort.

Self-development is the theme of my life this 2019. I put a lot of focus on doing more. I found something online a few weeks ago that made a lot of sense: That people nowadays are used to consuming, and deriving pleasure from watching and reading content – a passive enjoyment. But instead of consuming all the time, we should also produce a little more. That’s active enjoyment. It’s a pity I didn’t come across this earlier in my life; My younger self would have benefitted from this.

Don’t just come to school, consume your syllabus, go home and watch lots of TV believing that’s your life because you’re a student. You’re a student, but also a person. A person with valuable skills and time that can be dedicated to projects bigger than yourself.

The bottom line: Put yourself out there.


HWTP is such a good way to start. From there, it’s easy to branch out and do more. Volunteering becomes a more familiar concept. Lots of people to help, and not a lot of time to help all, but enough to help some.

Recruitment for Heartware Tuition Programme 2019 is now open!

Know more on how you be a tutor to under-privileged children here.