About Graded’s mentoring and tutoring program

Graded’s mentoring and tutoring (GMT) program, a new initiative by supervisors Karen Soriano and Nick Mariani, offers high schoolers the opportunity to mentor middle or lower school students. Curious to find out what the experience of tutoring a younger Graded student would be like, I recently joined GMT and had my first encounter with Gabriella, my tutee, a few days ago.

Although I was eager to get to know the third-grader I would be tutoring, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to answer her questions. I know this might sound bizarre coming from a junior, but this concern remained in my mind as I walked into the room where we would meet. To my surprise, though, our first session was full of memorable experiences that easily overcame my fear of being unable to help.

Fernanda Fiszner tutoring
Fernanda Fiszner tutoring

The first thing that surprised me about Gabriella was the fact that she was using her laptop, a device she seemed used to. She was typing a journal response to a book she read—an assignment I remember completing in third grade, but with paper and pencil. When I asked Gabriella how often she used a laptop in class, she told me that most of her homework was done online. This to me was an astonishing realization, because when I was her age any time on the computer was a treat reserved for the weekends. I don’t want to harangue like a grandmother about how kids-these-days are too dependent on technology—especially because I am certainly more addicted to it than third graders—but the amount of time she spent on the computer was certainly thought-provoking.


Despite my astonishment at Gabriella’s technological savvy, during our first meeting I also noticed many similarities between us. It seemed an unbelievable coincidence that the book she was reading, The Littles by John Peterson, was the exact book I read when I was in third grade. It also took me by surprise that the classroom we were in looked very similar to my memory of it. The large cubbies, the cursive name tags taped to the wall, and the daily schedule on the board were still the same. And there’s more: her homeroom class was the same one I had been in eight years ago.

My first experience as a tutor made me recognize changes that have taken place at Graded, as well as more permanent fixtures. Students constantly adapt to new environments and changing conditions, and our school is surely representative of the increasingly rapid technological advancement that affects most of the world. But as evident as these changes may be, some things remain the same—like those oversized cubbies.