Why Tutoring Can Be a Good Thing

For three months, I worked with a business coach. She thought I could build a “tutoring empire”. I explained to her that I could only see so many students a day, unless I began to hire employees or subcontract with other teachers I knew. There was a lot of discussion regarding what type of kids I served. She voted to add “students who want to excel”. In my 21 plus years in education, less than one-tenth of the population who are already successful in school feel they need, or want, a tutor. In the end, I dropped her suggestion for “excelling” students being part of the population that I was attempting to target.

Besides my homebound students that I work with through a local school district, I have a few private clients. One of them I help with math, usually about once a week and always the day before he has a test. His teacher moves quickly through the Algebra 3-4 curriculum, and keeps us both on our toes in understanding how she wants problems solved. This is typical of a student who would have a tutor: someone struggling a little with a subject and working with a tutor one or two times a week.

Another student, who is in middle school, has an IEP and barely qualifies for services. He is fully included in regular ed. classes, but has some accommodations that allow him to be successful in his classes. I meet with him once a week, and we work on whatever he has for homework that evening, which is usually social studies and math. It’s not that I spend a lot of time “teaching” him a concept as I do the previous student with higher math skills, but rather we discuss his writing, his understanding, how to locate information within a textbook, reading skills, and chunking his study time so he doesn’t cram the night before a test. His mother is very pleased with his improved grades and looks forward to me continuing with the student into high school.

There is a student I was helping with Geometry last school year. He attended a charter school that was academically challenging, and either because of or that it was just the circumstances, he was bullied. This student enjoys school and learning and has plans for his future.  This year, he is staying at home doing online curriculum through a public school and is much happier. I also see him only once a week, and we review whatever he’s doing with his math class, which is Algebra 3-4. I’ll note here that it amazes me how one class can have so many different approaches and how different math teachers decide which concepts are important enough to teach during the course. With this student, there is direct instruction.

The last two students I have are fraternal twin boys, juniors at a local high school, and typical of the prevalent attitude that I saw in the public high schools where I taught. They don’t care for school, don’t see the point in learning particular things or reading certain stories, and can’t wait to graduate and get into “the real world”. They are undecided as to a career interest. They generally start off each quarter doing well, but by the end they get through by the skin of their teeth, and they are fine with D’s on their report cards. There is a measure of disrespect towards their parents and teachers and anyone in authority. Though they haven’t disrespected me directly or to my face, I imagine their comments to their mother are similar as to what they tell me about their teachers. They generally don’t take responsibility for not completing an assignment, won’t keep up with their planners, think nothing of cheating on tests (one of them), are highly distractible, and need to be told repeatedly to watch their language and keep their chairs on the floor. I feel at home working with these boys, and I wonder how much my view has been skewed by the clientele I’ve been with the past 21 years. At least half the time I’m with them, I do counseling. We discuss grades, goals, what they can do to help themselves, etc. I text Mom a list of all that we did, and she continues to be grateful for whatever help I can give her and the boys. I meet with them once a week, unless there’s a big test and one of them is really struggling, then we meet more. Finals is always an interesting time, as we discuss what will happen if they don’t study and fail the class.

For each of the private students I spend time with, there is a different reason. Whether it’s direct instruction, general study skills help, counseling, or just an outside source to check in with, there are more reasons to hire a tutor than just waiting for struggles to begin or expecting a tutor to pull a student out of a hole they’ve dug themselves through incomplete assignments, not getting help from the teacher, not participating in class, not studying for tests, or they may be unfortunate enough to be in a class with a poor teacher and need help just to get through. However, I believe that there are already enough stressors in place in regular public high school, complicated by the biological influences of being a teenager, that pushing a student to excel is over the top. Did I mention that nearly all of my homebound students are at home due to high anxiety?

If you have a student that is struggling or that you feel needs a bit of outside support, one who could use some assistance with goals and figuring out the importance of education, then it would be a good time to hire a tutor. Remember, like every contractor you may hire, not all tutors are the same! Word of mouth is best. Meet with the tutor before you introduce them to your child. With luck, you’ll find one that is a good fit and your student will be more successful with the extra support.

Have a suggestion for finding a tutor or another reason why having a tutor can be helpful? Leave it in the comments. If you live in the Phoenix, AZ area and are looking for assistance, visit my website: www.myjoyenterprises.com