The following newspaper articles were written
by Cheryl Feuer Gedzelman,
Director of Tutoring For Success, Inc. Check back often to read newly published
Learning Curve - When a Tutor Can Help
By Cheryl Feuer Gedzelman, MA
what point should you consider educational intervention for your child? Is
she having insurmountable difficulties in school that you are unable to
help? Is self confidence a problem? Are organizational and study skills difficult
for her? Is motivation the issue? Does your child need to be challenged more?
Hands-on assistance by a tutor may help. Your child's "tutor" may
be a parent, baby-sitter, older sibling or relative - or professional tutor.
Parents call in a tutor for a variety of reasons, but they are not always
clear about what exactly they would like to accomplish as a result of this
intervention. One way to gain clarity is to evaluate the student. Evaluations
may include standardized tests and/or an information evaluation such as having
the student read and answer questions, do a writing sample or complete some
math problems. Parents should be sure to share all historical testing information
with the tutor.
After the evaluation is completed, it is important for you and your child
to set goals, which you should share with the tutor and, possibly, with
your child's teachers. Ideally, these goals should be in writing and should
monitored on a regular basis to see if they are being met.
Here are several
is having trouble focusing. She does not get her assignments completed.
She needs help with organization.
Procedure: The tutor helps
Mary focus and set priorities. The tutor can teach her how to break
into smaller parts and how to get started.
Goal: If Mary can learn organizational skills for herself, she can eventually
learn to successfully complete her assignments independently.
grades went down this quarter. He is not understanding his math and needs
Procedure: The tutor can try to find out why John's grades
by talking to his teacher and looking at old tests and quizzes. The tutor
can teach John how to study for tests more effectively and remediate
in areas that John shows a weakness. The parents and tutor need to decide
time should be devoted to completing homework and how much time should
be devoted to study skills and remediation.
Goal: Grades will improve and John will feel like he understands math
better. If not,
parents and tutor will meet to reevaluate methods.
Emily is not
being challenged enough in school. She needs enrichment in all areas.
This scenario requires a greater time commitment from the tutor. She
must design and evaluate lessons to challenge the student.
Goal: Emily will feel that she is learning new material and can tell
what she has learned. She can alleviate boredom with school work by
to learn more, ask questions, and dig deeper at home.
When setting goals, make sure that they are realistic - for instance, do
not expect your child's grade to jump from a D to an A in one quarter - but
also make sure the goals are challenging and worth the student's effort.
Be flexible. Feel free to suggest changes in goals as the tutoring progresses.
Setbacks need to be addressed as soon as they occur. Celebrate significant
advances. You may want to work with the tutor to set smaller, daily, easily
attainable goals for each meeting to give your child a sense of achievement
and to ensure that the tutor is able to make progress toward the big picture.
Small, incremental changes and improvements aim toward success. Ideally,
the tutor should complete periodic written evaluations documenting the student's
In addition to setting and checking goals, communication between all parties
is essential. Parents should be aware of what their children are doing in
school and should be in contact with the the teachers and tutor periodically.
In some cases, tutoring takes place only once a week, which may not be often
enough. Parents may be asked to help out between tutoring sessions, and students
have to take responsibility for implementing strategies taught and for working
harder. Parents should never expect a tutor to solve all their child's problems.
The tutor will never achieve anything without the cooperation of the student
When monitoring goals, do not let the negative issues outweigh the positive
advances, however small. Children's confidence (and adults' as well) thrives
on success and positive reinforcement. If the goals are periodically evaluated,
say every few weeks, and no positive change is noted, any of the parties
involved (student, parent, tutor or teacher) may suggest changing the plan.
It is very important for parents to pay close attention to their children's
academic progress continually. If the tutoring is not working, discuss changes
with the tutor. If the tutoring still isn't working, consider switching tutors
or looking at other reasons for failure.
For example, in some situations, if a student's grades in all subjects are
a variety of factors may be responsible, and a tutor may not be
the answer. Some of
these factors include emotional/chemical issues, family
issues such as relationship problems with parents or recent stressful events
(divorce, switching neighborhoods and/or schools, death of a loved one),
and drug use. Peer pressure sometimes supercedes family and schoolwork
in negative way, particularly in the middle-school
years. Some students are
too angry and/or emotionally distressed to effectively handle schoolwork
even with the help of a tutor. Therapy may need to come first. Once the
can more or less resolve disturbing emotional issues and feel better about
herself, she may become motivated to improve her life.
To succeed in school, a student needs to be motivated to learn and to excel.
School success needs to be her goal and expectation, only only her parents'
goal. If a tutor is hired, the student needs to cooperate by doing her part
- being ready for the tutor's arrival with the appropriate materials and
questions and being prepared to do extra work assigned by the tutor if appropriate.
Thus, for optimal results, you should discuss the goals and responsibility
of receiving tutoring with your child before a tutor arrives at your door.
While a tutor may be helpful, there is no substitute for parents' involvement
in their child's education. If you are too busy to be personally involved,
it will be obvious to your child. While an outside tutor may relieve you
of breathing down your child's neck to complete each assignment and may provide
the expertise to help your child develop specific skills, you can do your
share by making it clear to your child that you value education and learning.
Show interest in what your child is learning in school; take educational
family field trips to museums and historical sites; show your child that
you value reading and writing by modeling; be available for questions about
homework; watch movies and documentaries on educational topics (PBS, History
Channel, Discovery Channel) and discuss current events as a family. Use your
imagination. If you can bring the love of learning into your home, this will
spill over into school. Your ultimate goal may be similar to that of other
families - to promote more dedication to school along with the love of learning.