One day your child needs help figuring out 4 + 7 and then, seemingly overnight, is asking for help with quadratic equations. As a parent, when you decide your child’s academic struggles are out of your league and that you need to hire a tutor, it is important to remember you still have a big effect on the outcome. Tutoring is expensive and it is in your best interest to get the most out of the process for your child. From the beginning, take an active approach to make sure the tutoring experience is a successful one.
1. Establish regular sessions and stick to them.
By setting up a routine, you can help your child stay ahead of trouble and stay on track. The tutor can use the textbook and class materials to work ahead when possible. This helps students develop a sense of confidence in class and gives them pre-exposure to the material in a less demanding setting so that they can return to it in more depth the next session. Aim for once a week for elementary and junior high levels and twice a week for high school students who are studying faster paced subjects. If you have to miss a session, contact the tutor ahead of time so that you can set up a substitute day and time. Plan on extra sessions around final exam times and schedule these well in advance.
2. Create a circle of communication with the student, teacher, and tutor.
By making sure everyone is on the same page, you will help maximize the tutoring experience. The tutor can give the teacher valuable feedback as far as the student’s progress and what difficulties he might still be having. The teacher can provide material for working ahead and provide insight into potential in-class problems. The student can give valuable feedback about what is working and what is not during tutoring sessions. Exchange e-mail addresses at the beginning of the tutoring process and check in frequently with everybody to facilitate this communication.
3. Start tutoring at the beginning of the school year or as soon as problems arise.
The further behind a student is, the more difficulty she will have catching up. The tutor helps by providing individualized instruction and helping the student develop understanding. However, establishing knowledge that the student will retain takes time. If a student expresses frustration or has had some bad test grades, start tutoring before the problem snowballs. Do not wait until the student gets consistent failing grades or feels panicked. At this point, tutoring might give little relief in a stressful situation.
4. Provide a distraction-free zone.
Many tutors will work with students in their homes. However, while this is a comfortable environment it can also be a chaotic one thanks to siblings, TV, radio, and meal preparations. Set up a quiet setting in an area where you can listen if you want without interfering with the student-tutor interaction. Keep other children out of the way and ask questions before or after the session. Resist the urge to jump in with input during the session. If you have concerns you are afraid you will forget, jot them down and bring them up later.
5. Do not be afraid to change tutors or give a tutor feedback.
Give a tutor a few sessions to adapt to your child’s learning style. After this time, if the student is not responding and/or gives negative feedback about the experience, consider trying a different tutor. Ask your child specific questions to sort out complaints about tutoring in general from complaints about a specific tutor or a specific style. If there is no improvement in grades, confidence, or perceived ability you might need to reassess tutoring as a strong enough intervention.