Like so many other areas of Westport life, tutoring has become an arms race.
Parents pay well north of $120 an hour for their kids’ instruction in physics, chemistry, writing, what have you.
They fork over high sums for specialized sports coaching too — baseball, soccer, basketball, etc.
Soon there will be a new entrant in that crowded battlefield. It’s called “Pencil Warrior” — and Greg Lewis hopes his tutors and coaches can take the arms race down a notch.
Greg and his web design partner, Gabe Schindler, are 2011 Staples grads. But they’re not the tutors; they’re already too old. They’re about to go live with a website that allows parents of children from kindergarten on up to select current high school students as tutors — once those students register, and are vetted, by Greg.
The idea is for eligible students to tutor not only a subject, but the same course — and teacher — they’ve previously had. The key: A tutor must have received at least an A- in that class. Greg will validate those grades, through transcripts.
Sports tutors must be members of a varsity or junior varsity team.
(Greg is registering baby sitters too. They need not be A- students, or athletes.)
“People who are tutoring right now might not know how specific classes run. Each teacher emphasizes different things,” notes Greg.
He is not anti-teacher or professional tutors, he adds. “This is mentorship — peers giving advice on how to succeed, for less money.” He says Pencil Warrior “complements” higher-priced tutors. District policy prohibits teachers from tutoring students in their own classes. Greg says he’s spoken with several teachers who tutor, and they see value in what he’s doing.
Staples principal John Dodig has tried for years to organize a student help exchange. He cites the simplicity and convenience of Pencil Warrior, and wishes Greg and his team “much success in this creative venture.”
Pencil Warrior does not set fees. It simply connects tutors with parents and younger students. Tutors can create profile pages highlighting their talents, while parents and tutees will be able to post reviews of their tutors.
Because student tutors are less experienced than adults, Greg’s site will include resources, links and “best practices” pages just for tutors.
A couple of years ago, at Staples, Greg had the concept of connecting older students with younger ones. Last year, sitting in an economics class at Amherst College, he realized the importance of passing along knowledge of successful practices — “what works.”
He taught himself programming, and built a beta program to register tutors. Gabe — a rising sophomore at the University of Michigan — adds web design talents.
Greg is not charging tutors a commission or fee. The site will be supported by local ads. Eventually, he may license his program for use in other communities.
But for now, he’s readying Pencil Warrior for its launch. And for launching himself into the middle of the crowded tutoring/coaching fray.