After 38 years of working as a doctor, Larry stopped working and used his extra time to serve with for four terms. Though he was apprehensive in the beginning, he came to really love serving with the program.
What made you want to join AmeriCorps?
Well, I had just made the transition out of medicine. In medicine, you’re used to pretty much going every waking minute. I was looking for something to do, and I saw an ad for Math Corps. I called them up and it took off from there. My first service site was near where I lived in Roseville at Washington Tech, just down the street.
What were you doing as a Math Corps tutor?
The way I think about it, Math Corps helps a group of students who just need a little boost with math. It helps students who need to have somebody paying attention to them and helping them to accomplish their goals. The students fall just below the benchmark goal on proficiency testing and Math Corps seeks to give them skills to make it over that benchmark.
I had some apprehension that first time I knocked on the classroom door to get students for tutoring. I said to myself, “What am I doing? How’s this going to go?”, but the students were just great and their willingness to participate carried us on through a great year.
Having been a doctor for 38 years, what helped you adjust to being a tutor?
I was comfortable in a classroom setting and being with either one-on-one or in small groups. That’s a major perk of medicine – interaction with people, that one-on-one communication. That’s what keeps you going and that’s what you miss when you’re not doing it.
What are some memories you have of Math Corps students?
I remember a pair of students who voiced dismay that they weren’t good in math and couldn’t do it. I just blurted out one day that they were my best students, and of course, they’d say, no, we’re terrible at this. I kept telling them, you’re doing great, I love to see you coming to tutoring. I kept telling them that, and I think it sunk in. They started working and focusing and even caught my own math mistakes if I made them. I think if you hear something over and over, you can change your mindset and become a believer in yourself.
I had another student who said he had been having to go to ‘math help’ at the end of the day, and he said, “Please help me, I HAVE to get out of math help.” So I took him on in addition to my usual schedule. We went through the whole Math Corps curriculum in three months, and he raised his MCA score 19 percentage points in one year!
How can AmeriCorps help people in a healthcare career?
So my question is, “Are you going to be a better physician than a cell phone?”, and what I mean by that is, you need to hone the skills of communication, observation, assessment, and motivation. It’s important to get the whole picture, to see a person’s body language, like the little frown that comes up if they don’t quite get it. Your phone and laptop screens can’t do that.
These days, sometimes doctors spend much more time looking at the computer screen than they do looking at their patients. The ability to actively communicate – that’s what Math Corps helps you practice.
The first thing people say when I suggest they do Math Corps is, “I’m terrible at math”. I say, great, you’ll fit right in! Math Corps gives you instruction, training, and technique. If you’re uncomfortable and not quite sure how to proceed, it’s all right there. By the time you’ve done it three or four times, it is second nature.
I did all four years, I thought I would just do one. You get plenty of support. If you think, hey, this could work for me, do it. You’ll get benefits, you’ll enjoy it and love it, and it’s a great thing to put on your resume.