Tutor Trees

By Drew B | Thursday, August 25, 2022

Many know Schoolhouse as a place where anyone can receive free tutoring.

Schoolhouse, however, is not just that. It’s also a place where anyone can become a tutor.

This is a radical idea. Imagine a world where everyone not only learns the material they find in school, but has the opportunity to master it and teach it to others.

There is an interesting side effect to such a world — something I like to call “tutor trees.”

The concept of a tutor tree is this: when a learner becomes a tutor, they tutor other students, who may eventually become tutors themselves, and have the opportunity to teach other students. This results in a line of tutors and students that all leads back to the first tutor. So, when someone becomes a volunteer tutor on Schoolhouse, their impact is multifold. Not only do they directly help the learners understand new material, they also have the opportunity to empower those learners to become tutors themselves. Those learners-turned-tutors can now help a new generation of learners, and the cycle repeats. This impact multiplies, like the branches of a tree.

And on a platform like Schoolhouse, this multiplying effect can happen in the span of months or even weeks.

The Story Behind Evan’s Tree


A perfect example of this phenomenon is Evan H. A high schooler from Florida in the United States, Evan joined Schoolhouse in May 2021 intent on helping others with the SAT while earning a few volunteer hours.

Evan’s tutoring philosophy is summed up by the Socrates quote in his tutor bio: “Let the questions be the curriculum.”


One of the learners in Evan’s SAT tutoring sessions was Anya G, another high schooler hailing from India. Shortly after attending Evan’s sessions, Anya decided to become a Schoolhouse tutor herself. Instead of tutoring SAT math, Anya hosted a book club series.


Nearby in China, Woody W joined Anya’s book club. Upon finishing her series, he wrote at the time: “Its very nice to share books with new friends and learn new books from others”. Inspired by her and other tutors, Woody became a tutor just days later. (He’d also later become one of the most active tutors on the platform, as seen on our leaderboards.)


David Z, an 8th grader also from China, attended one of Woody’s pre-algebra tutoring sessions. “I really like the interactions and activities in Woody’s sessions,” he tells me. “There’s lots of fun games, jokes, and tons of funny moments!”

Woody then encouraged David to become a tutor himself as a way of giving back and furthering his own knowledge. Excited but nervous, David took the leap.


In a move of solidarity, many of the learners from Woody’s math tutoring decided to also attend David’s first tutoring session.

Enrique C, a homeschooler from Malaysia, was at David’s first session. Already internet friends with both Woody and David at that time, he realized that he wanted to join them and become a tutor himself.

Enrique admits that “David’s first session was awkward, like really, really awkward” (in a good way!)

“And me being prideful seeing the awkwardness of the session,” Enrique says, “I thought to myself I could better than this. And then weeks later I became a tutor and my first session was super awkward as well.”

Happens to the best of us!


As Enrique’s experiences as a tutor ramped up, he too hosted his own book club, not too different from Anya’s book club back in the day.

Jane Y, a homeschooler like Enrique, joined the book club. She was struck by how Enrique took in feedback and continually improved his sessions.

Jane noted that she and Enrique were similar ages. “I was a bit afraid to sign up for certification as a tutor,” she says, “but I think Enrique is one of the reason why I [had] the courage to sign up as a tutor and help others.”


Joancy G, a high schooler from Malaysia, then began attending Jane’s sessions as a learner. A couple months later, in March 2022, she too had made the leap and became a tutor herself. The journey continues to this day…

A Lineage of Tutors

There we have it. In the span of under a year, Evan went from tutoring a few learners to having built a long lineage of tutors who were inspired by him (or inspired by people who were inspired by him, and so on).

From Evan to Anya to Woody to David to Enrique to Jane to Joancy, this chain spans 7 people and 4 countries.

More impressively, this is just one “branch” of a larger tree. Check out Evan’s full tree here.

Evan’s tutor tree

A Forest of Trees

Every tutor on Schoolhouse has a tree. No matter how small at the beginning, their tree will continue to grow with more tutoring.

Simply visit a user’s profile (here’s mine as an example) and scroll down to click on their tutor tree.

Alongside Evan’s, some trees to explore include Tri N’s, Culver G’s, and even Sal Khan’s.

Planting a (Real-Life) Tree

As a community, Schoolhouse takes pride in such tutor lineages and trees —they embody the beauty of growing one’s impact and free tutoring as a whole.

That’s why we plant trees in real life once a tutor tree reaches a height of 5 “generations” of tutors.

You can see Evan’s tutor tree and real-life tree as an example. The trees are planted by #teamtrees and the non-profit Arbor Day Foundation.

Tutoring on Schoolhouse may be virtual, but the impact is real.


Ripple Effects

Throughout society, we know ripple effects exist. Do something good for another person and that may not only benefit their life, but also the lives of those around them.

However, it is not often the case that we can quantify or even observe those ripple effects.

In an online environment like Schoolhouse, though, we can shine a light on these positive ripple effects.

I am an optimist, but even for me, seeing some of these tutor trees opened up my eyes to how impact multiplies. Ripple effects are everywhere—we just need to start looking.

Thank you to Maya B and Michael K for providing feedback on this post.

Written by Drew Bent, COO of schoolhouse.world. [email protected]

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