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Sep 24 2011
Category: Education Editorial
Tags: education > school system > tutoring benefits > tutors
Over the past few months I have been reading with less than mild interest about a young teacher in a suburban Virginia school district who posted a few less than complementary things about some (and I emphasize the word some) of her students. No names; just generalities. I read a lot about how this teacher was insensitive, unprofessional, stupid, etc.; but I did not read a lot about how this teacher was wrong.
To start out with; I think that this teacher was incredibly naive, but then people new to the business usually are (by new, I mean less than five to seven years in the classroom). I actually believe that this naivety is a good thing because it allows new teachers to have that unbridled enthusiasm that education sorely needs, and it allows them to try new things in their classrooms. Without this education would stagnate, and things would be worse than they already are. But back to my point: After more than three decades of teaching I must say that most (and I mean well over 95%) of my students were wonderful. This is not just referring to the academic standouts. I had great students at every level. BUT I also had some that fit exactly the description of the kind of student this teacher was talking about.
We can now begin the blame game. Take your pick: bad teachers, bad schools, too much television, video games, poverty, and so on. Do you see anything missing here: Every educator knows it, but few are willing to publicly say it: BAD PARENTING. I am not trying to say that the other things I mentioned are not part of the equation, but I firmly believe that parenting is the most important factor in what kind of student – or person for that matter – a young person will be. There is nothing I can say that will change the fact that some people have atrocious parenting skills, or that someday a bold school board member, principal, or superintendent will stand up at a public meeting and say this. The purpose of this article is to send a message to those who do have decent parenting skills (and this refers to most parents) who want the best for their children and are willing to go the extra mile to help their children succeed.
The message I want to convey to those parents is: DON’T HESITATE TO GET OUTSIDE HELP FOR YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER! Teachers cannot give every student the individualized attention that they often need and always deserve, and that is something that a tutor can provide. They want to, but it is not possible with everything else they must do. Teachers spend too much time dealing with the few “problem” children in their classrooms, and turn their attention to the majority of others when time permits. You, as a concerned parent must monitor your child’s progress – and you must do this in a positive way. Too often people want to blame the teacher, the school, the teacher, and almost anyone or anything else. This may make you feel better and allows you to abdicate your responsibility as a parent, but I can assure you that it will not solve the problem. If your son or daughter is not achieving success in school; and if you and your child have done everything you can do to deal with the issue on your own, don’t hesitate to look for outside help. There are fantastic resources outside of the school system that you can turn to. Tutors, learning centers, learned neighbors and relatives are just among the few resources that are out there. It is not a sign of failure on your part or on your child’s part if you need to turn to an outside resource to help. You do it when you take your car to the shop, call the plumber to fix your leaky sink, go to the doctor when you are sick, and so on. Isn’t your child just as important?
Sep 23 2011
Category: Tutoring Information
As a parent or a student you have made the decision to use the services of a tutor. Good for you. You are now taking more control of your education. Now the question is: how to find a good one. There are many criteria that one must consider when selecting a tutor.
First and foremost, you must pick a tutor who is willing and able to match your child’s particular learning style. What most parents and students don’t know is that each student has his or her has their own learning style, and that works for one student does not necessarily work for another. For years teachers have been overwhelmed by curriculum demands, and more recently by larger class sizes, that they can usually cater to only one or two learning styles in any given lesson, which means that if that learning style doesn’t match your child’s they usually don’t adequately learn the necessary material. Teachers and administrators often talk a good game, but the most important classroom resource is time, and the time teachers can spend teaching to the different learning styles is decreasing at an alarming rate. If your teacher cannot identify your child’s learning style then you must take steps to do so. Learning style can be identified by any number of good surveys, and your first step should be to ask your child’s teacher or guidance counselor for the particular survey used by the school. If that doesn’t work, then you can find many suitable surveys on line using a search engine or other application. Once you have identified your child’s learning style you must make sure that the tutor is able to cater to it. If the tutor merely mirrors what happens in the classroom without specializing his or her instruction to your child’s needs then you are wasting your money and your child’s time. REMEMBER: THE TUTOR IS WORKING FOR YOU, AND IF HE OR SHE IS UNWILLING TO INDIVIDUALIZE THE METHOD OF INSTRUCTION, FIND SOMEONE WHO WILL!
Secondly, check your tutors credentials. Most tutors are teachers or retired teachers. That does not necessarily mean that they are good tutors. One of the best ways to check the effectiveness of a tutor is to ask others who have used his or her services. You can also check with your child’s teacher. There may be web sites that will give you some information. Don’t waste your money and your child’s time with an ineffective tutor.
Next, take the time to inspect the learning environment the tutor provides. Most tutors work out of their home, so you must be sure that your child’s tutoring sessions will not be affected by televisions, phone calls, fights between siblings, preparing meals, etc. To be sure, there will be times that the ideal learning environment might be disrupted, but it should not occur on a regular basis. The prospective tutor should not be afraid to invite you into the environment where he or she is going to work with your child. Check to see if there is adequate lighting, a clutter free workplace, etc. Most teachers and other educational experts give guidelines as to what type of surroundings you should provide for your child to do his or her homework. The place where your child is going to be tutored should meet these guidelines as well. Many times a child does not learn properly because of an adverse learning environment in the classroom. Don’t subject your child to an equally adverse situation when using the services of a tutor.
There are other considerations that you must take into account (cost, distance, can they be reached easily – i.e. do they use an answering service, etc) but the last thing I am going to mention in this article is what your responsibility is in order to maximize the effectiveness of a tutor. Many students simply use tutoring services to have the lesson retaught. This is assuming that your child go absolutely nothing out of the lessons taught by the classroom teacher. That is rarely the case. Most of the time there are just one or two sticking points that need to be clarified and practiced to get your child “over the fence” in regards to understanding what the teacher is trying to teach. Before the tutoring session make sure that your child has specific questions or concerns that the tutor can focus in on. It is even helpful if you can contact the tutor a day or so in advance of the session to let him or her know what specifics need to be focused in on. It makes no sense for the tutor to go over what you child already understands. You also need to make sure that your child is ready to learn at a tutoring session. Going right from sports practice to the tutor makes little or no sense. Having to go to a job, a music lesson, sports practice, etc. right after the tutoring session is also a bad idea. Most tutors will spend a few extra minutes if needed, and if you child has to run out to go somewhere else, this opportunity is lost. Also if your child is going to an activity that they would rather be doing right after tutoring, the last twenty minutes or so are lost because that is what they are thinking about rather than the lesson at hand. A tutoring session is a period of intensive learning, so send your child to the tutor in the same condition and frame of mind that you send him or her to school with.
All the answers to selecting the perfect tutor and maximizing the individualized learning time could fill a book. What has been provided here is just an overview of what you need to consider in order to get the most out of your money and your child’s time. Many times parents think that just because they have hired a tutor their child’s academic performance will improve. If the tutoring situation is no better than the classroom situation, what would lead anyone to believe that the results will be the same. Deciding to use the services of a tutor is a major decision, but more often than not, once that decision has been made the real work begins.
Sep 21 2011
Category: Education Editorial
I had a wonderful math teacher. His name was Mr. Forman, and I loved every minute in his class. He would do a problem on the board and step back and say “It’s magic” when all the numbers and formulas would come out exactly right. My wife – who attended the same school district – also had a wonderful math teacher. His name was Mr. Robinson, and he was able to make math so interesting and understandable that doing math problems (even the dreaded word problems) became almost second nature. The unfortunate twist of this story is that I had Mr. Forman in my senior year of high school, and my wife had Mr. Robinson in junior high. My wife became a math teacher, and I have struggled with math my entire life. Even in Mr. Forman’s class I was never better than a C student because I lacked the necessary skills to perform his magical tricks.
Your son or daughter is subject to the same crap shoot in regards to teachers. There are some great ones out there, but that does not guarantee that your child will be in their class, or more importantly, be in their class at the right time. Mr. Robinson gave my wife the tools she needed to excel in math – even when confronted by less than competent math teachers later on. On the other hand, the math teachers I had in prior to the mystical Mr. Forman were not quite up to the same level as Mr. Robinson, so math and I were in a constant battle, that unfortunately, math usually won. I wish I would have spoken up or that my parents would have hired a private tutoring service to come to my house and take the mysery out of math.
The purpose of this article is not to criticize teachers. We all know that there are a lot of good ones and a lot of bad ones out there. What parents and students need to understand is that this is the way it has always been, and this is the way it will always be – and complaining about bad teachers will do absolutely nothing to address the problem of how can a student get the proper background in math or any other subject needed to excel in the classroom. What parents and students need to do is, as Clint Eastwood says in the movie Heartbreak Ridge: “adapt and overcome”. For many, this may mean hiring a tutor to provide the individualized instruction that may be needed to overcome the inadequacies of a less than competent teacher. Unfortunately there is little a parent or student can do about incompetent teachers. Usually, the school administrators know who they are, and there is little they can do either. This stinks, but it is the way it is. Action must be taken in a different direction, which often means going outside of the school to ensure that the necessary learning is taking place. If you as a parent or student think for one second that extra help is needed, it probably is. Don’t hesitate to consider hiring a tutor to get over the rough spots. The expenditure of a little time and money at the onset will pay off in the end. To quote a television commercial of the past: “You can pay now, or you can pay later.” The decision is up to you!
Sep 20 2011
Category: Education Editorial
Whenever we begin discussing education in America we must start with one over-riding premise: THE AMERICAN EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM IS CONTROLLED BY POLITICIANS. This leads to the second premise, which is: THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY OF ANY POLITICIAN IS TO GET RE-ELECTED. With these two inescapable facts in mind, let’s look at what is happening to the average student.
Students with special needs have advocates – politicians respond, and laws get passed. Gifted students have advocates – politicians respond, and laws get passed. Students with disabilities have advocates – politicians respond, and laws get passed. Students of different nationalities or ethnicity have advocates – and laws get passed. Curriculum gurus have advocates – and laws get passed. DO YOU SEE A PATTERN HERE? This article is not concerned with the validity or worth of these laws, but there is one common consequence of all of them: THEY COST MONEY! This would not be a problem at all if those in charge of the educational system would provide all the funds to pay for each of these laws, but that would mean raising taxes; so you need to refer back to premise one and two. The inconvenient truth is: The end result of all these new laws is that schools must cut their budgets somewhere to pay for them, and the current trend is to increase class size. In a news letter sent to the community the superintendent of schools stated that he was able to cut the teaching staff at the high school by 10%. If there are about the same number of students and 10% less teachers you do the math,
All those students who have advocates with political clout usually benefit from the new laws and mandates, but the one student who usually gets left behind by budget cuts and schools having to focus in on these special groups is the average student. This is the student who gets up every morning, goes to school, is generally ignored by teachers and administrators alike (not because they want to, but because they are too busy catering to all the other groups who have advocates) and does well enough academically to get by. The problem is: in a world that is increasingly becoming more competitive, getting by is not enough.
If you are the parent of an average child, forget about forming an advocacy group to make sure the schools do what is in the best interest of your child. It has never happened, and never will. YOU need to be the advocate for your child, and unfortunately, your voice will not be heard by those who run the schools. You, as a parent, must take the initiative to make sure that your child maximizes his or her learning potential. If your child is in a math or reading class of 25+ students don’t expect the classroom teacher to be able to provide the individualized instruction that may be necessary. Very few teachers have the luxury of spending a lot of time or effort on students who get C’s, but many times, with a little help, the C student could get a B.
The purpose of this article is to encourage parents – and students – to consider individualized instruction: or as it is commonly called: TUTORING. In the past, there was a stigma, both among parents of average students and the students themselves when it came to using a tutor. That stigma has to go away. Parents cannot consider using a tutor as some sign of failure or stupidity, but must consider the use of a private instructor as their way of being an educational advocate for their son or daughter. Students can no longer consider using a tutor as a sign of failure or stupidity, but must consider the use of a private instructor as a way to maximize their learning potential so that they can excel rather than just “get by”. Parents and students must face the inconvenient truth that the schools are not going to cater to their needs. Yes, this stinks, but it is the way it is, and the way it is going to be for the foreseeable future. If parents and students want a fighting chance for future success, then nothing can be taken off the table, including the use of tutors.
Sep 19 2011
Category: Personal Stories
As a child in elementary school, I struggled. My grades were not of the same quality as that of my friends. My self esteem was not so great and I was heading through a downward spiral in my educational career. Things got so bad that my 4th grade teacher suggested that I repeated the year. My parents did not know what to do. I had been tested and did not appear to have any learning disorders and my brothers and sisters always excelled as students. My mother suggested that I see a Virginia tutor. My father and I resisted this suggestion at first. After all kids that needed a tutor weren’t that bright or so I thought.
In meeting with my first tutor, things clicked almost immediately. The things that I was being taught throughout the school year all seemed to come into focus. It was like at school, I was given all the pieces of the puzzle and through tutoring, these pieces started to fall into place. I initially was embarrassed that I needed a tutor. That embarrassment soon subsided as my grades began to noticeably improve. I no longer struggled, but I still needed a tutor. It has been eight years that I have received individualized teaching. This year, I will graduate with honors. To people who think only the kids who aren’t so bright need a tutor; think again. Tutoring is the most valuable tool that I have had in my educational arsenal and it is a tool I will continue to use.