Teen on tiktok tutoring math
Brittany Hambleton
Brittany Hambleton
June 3, 2020 ·  6 min read

Teen is using social media to tutor a generation of out-of-school students in math

The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down schools all over the world for the remainder of the school year, and this stands to have an unprecedented impact on our young people, the effects of which will likely be felt for years to come. As teachers across the country have struggled to stay in contact with their students and continue their education, one teen uses social media to tutor his fellow classmates, as well as students in countries across the globe.

The TikTok Tutor

Alexis Lovarez is a sixteen-year-old highschool student with a 4.0 grade point average at Harlem Prep High School in the Bronx. He has been using TikTok to help students with subjects like algebra, geometry, chemistry, and SAT prep during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lovarez, who now has over 660 thousand followers, has earned the name “TikTok Tutor”, for his ability to explain complicated topics to his peers. 

Although the high school student began making his videos before the pandemic began, his following has increased dramatically since schools have been closed. Many students are calling him a “lifeline” during a time when they are struggling to keep up, and the usual resources are not available to them. In some cases, students are finding his explanations to be even better than that of their own teachers.

Alexis has been shocked by the positive response he has received, not just from his own peers, but from students across the United States, Canada, Australia, Singapore, and the Philippines. 

“Things that they probably forgot like before COVID-19, this is like a refresher of what I’m, like, giving them out. It’s really cool because they understand it even better the way I’m explaining it to them.” [1]

His tutorials are now appearing on Google Classroom, allowing him to reach even more students around the world. His mother, Likmilian Hiciano, could not be happier that her son is using the social media platform to help others. 

“I’m excited about this. I know he can do this and more. I’m so proud that he helped a lot of people,” she said [1].

As for what motivates him to make the videos, Alexis says that it is the knowledge that he has, and he has a desire to share that knowledge with others.

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How COVID-19 Has Impacted the Education System

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent school closures have shone a light on how important our public education system is. With all of them shut down, it has become blatantly obvious that schools are necessary for the functioning of civic culture and daily life [2].

Schools are essentially community centers, that provide student-welfare services like free meals, health care, and even in some cases, dentistry. They also care for children while parents work. 

Education historians and researchers are now certain that the long-standing impact for students will likely be severe and long-lasting [2].

Economically, the main reason a child needs to be in school is to raise their ability, or, in other words, teach them skills. There is research to support that even a short time in school can increase a child’s ability. Conversely, a relatively short period of missed school can also have a negative impact on a child’s skill growth [3].

The switch to homeschooling has also had an impact on family life, and for many parents, being the primary driver of education in their home is not going to lead to success for their children.

“I don’t think we’ve had a shock to educational systems of this magnitude, at least to instructional time,” said Joshua Goodman, an associate professor of economics at Brandeis University. “And part of that is the number of weeks and months of school students are going to be missing. But it’s also the fact that a bunch of parents will be unemployed, or that their savings will have vanished, or that someone in their family is sick” [2].

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Financial and Resource Disparity Among Students

One of the main concerns with regards to the global shift to homeschooling is the income inequality in the nation, and how that will affect students who come from lower-income homes, who have lower access to resources.

Paul Reville, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, points to the fact that while we tend to regard our school systems uniformly, schools across the country vary widely in terms of their operations and their impact on children, and as such the pandemic will have a variable effect on schools.

“Children come from very different backgrounds and have very different resources, opportunities, and support outside of school,” he explained. “Now that their entire learning lives, as well as their actual physical lives, are outside of school, those differences and disparities come into vivid view.” [4]

He emphasizes the main issue, which is that some students will have access to high-quality learning opportunities while at home, but others will not, resulting in an enormous disadvantage.

“Generally speaking, the most economically challenged in our society will be the most vulnerable in this crisis, and the most advantaged are most likely to survive it without losing too much ground.” [4]

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The Pandemic as a Springboard for Positive Change

Reville recognizes that many of the inequalities that have become extremely apparent during this health crisis have existed in the public school system for decades, and he highlights that the COVID-19 pandemic needs to be used as a catalyst for making positive changes.

“In politics we say, “Never lose the opportunity of a crisis.” And in this situation, we don’t simply want to frantically struggle to restore the status quo because the status quo wasn’t operating at an effective level and certainly wasn’t serving all of our children fairly” [4].

There are lessons to be learned from the difficulties that have taken place while adapting to this situation, and the disparities in children’s access to support and opportunities has become more apparent than ever before. Reville wants to see education policy makers use this as an opportunity to end the “one size fits all” model of education.

“We should be asking: How do we make our school, education, and child-development systems more individually responsive to the needs of our students? Why not construct a system that meets children where they are and gives them what they need inside and outside of school in order to be successful?” [4].

Help in the Present and Hope for the Future

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to look at many aspects of our society and how they need to be changed for the better, and our public education system is certainly not the least among them. The hope is that as we slowly make our way back to normal life, we will leave behind the old ways of doing things to create a system that serves all of our children from every socioeconomic background.

In the meantime, people like young Alexis Lovarez, as well as the thousands of dedicated teachers from across the country, are doing what they can to help support students during this difficult time, and to try to make sure students don’t fall through the cracks.

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