With the end of the school year quickly approaching I am receiving a lot of frantic requests from parents, “Could you please meet with my child tomorrow? He has a math test on Friday and if he doesn’t pass, he may have to go to summer school!”
My policy is generally to refuse such requests, although I always do so with a very heavy heart since I know that the student most likely will fail and have some negative consequence. However, where there are some individuals who advertise themselves as “Test Prep Consultants” whose specialty is in teaching unprepared students how to “cram” at the last minute for big exams, parents should understand that this isn’t what real tutors do.
My goal as a tutor is to establish a connection with my students and to give them not only subject knowledge, but memory strategies and test taking skills that they will be able to use effectively for a lifetime whether the subject is fractions, English 101, or a corporate training session on Human Resource policy. Even the most effective tutor will have difficulty establishing the rapport necessary to make a real difference in a student’s understanding of a topic and to help in changing study habits and organizational skills on short notice and my experience has been that these types of issues are more likely to be the source of a student’s academic problems rather than innate intelligence.
My strongest suggestion for parents is, “Don’t wait!” As soon as you suspect that your child is struggling, (trust your gut – if you have a nagging feeling that your child is struggling, even when teachers are assuring you otherwise there probably is some sort of problem), seek out a tutor. Don’t wait but also take the time to choose carefully. Make sure the tutor is interested in getting to know your child as an individual. Does the tutor ask questions about your child’s progress, interests, and study habits? Does he or she try to establish a friendly and encouraging relationship with your child? Does he or she keep you updated on your child’s progress and aware of any new concerns or problems?
Sometimes it takes two or three sessions in order to find out what motivates a student and develop the most effective teaching approach. Please don’t wait until it is a “do or die” situation to seek help for your child. Once a child is in danger of failing or being held back a tutor often has to spend several sessions simply building the student’s confidence back up. Good tutors don’t mind taking the time to do this, but for the student’s sake it is always better to seek help sooner rather than later.