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Things you may not know about tutoring.


So your child’s report card finally made it home and it looks like no matter how hard he tries, he just can’t shake that “C” grade in science class. Or maybe her teacher called home because she is concerned your child may fail math. No matter the issue, you’re now considering getting your child outside help — that’s when the tutor comes in.

Tutors are great resources. They can assist your child in learning how to work harder and study smarter. But there may be a few things your child’s tutor may forget to tell you. Keep reading for the complete list of things you may not realize about tutoring:

  1. A Good Tutor Tries to Put Himself Out of a Job
    Marina Ruben, author of “How to Tutor Your Own Child,” says that while tutors certainly want to make some cash, you’ll know a good tutor when your child does so well that he doesn’t need his tutor anymore. “He or she should want to transfer skills to the student, striving to help the student become confident, competent and independently capable of engaging in the learning process.”
  2. Tutoring Is More Than Just Homework-Helping
    A good tutor will help your child to learn how to set aside time to study, how to study, test-taking tips and self-esteem boosting. Ruben notes, “In September, your 9th grader might need weekly support to manage his work, but by June he may have mastered the time management skills his tutor shared, allowing him to work successfully by himself.”
  3. Parents Can Expect Too Much
    A tutor is not a magician. Don’t expect a failing report card to transform into straight As overnight. A tutor will work with your child to slowly build understanding of a subject and confidence in academic abilities.
  4. You Don’t Have to Pay for That Test
    Often, before a tutor begins his first day with a struggling student, he will ask the student to take a brief assessment test — at the parent’s expense — to let him know exactly what level of learning the child is at.

    Dr. Alicia Holland-Johnson, author of “Becoming a Better Tutor,” says that parents often don’t realize they don’t have to pay for that test: “Tutors charge anywhere from $25 to $90 for a diagnostic assessment. This fee can be saved if parents let the tutor know that they have their child’s assessment data or other relevant data available.” If your school performs diagnostic tests on students regularly, parents will have access to these and can provide them to the tutor.

  5. Tutors Can Map a Game Plan
    When that assessment is completed, tutors will then work out a plan for your child. Each child they tutor is different and requires a different strategy. This is something you don’t need to assist with, and something a school-based assessment might help with.

    As Holland-Johnson notes, “Tutors can use the student data from the student’s schools to help them plan instruction. They can use this as a baseline to create a customized plan based upon the specific learning objectives (i.e. Objective 1: Numbers and Sense). There are a certain amount of topics within a specific objective for any given subject.”

  6. Breaks Are Necessary
    While you may think that tutoring is all about one-on-one contact and constant review and study, a big part of a child’s study should include breaks. Ruben argues that “Incorporating movement, food and water breaks into homework time can increase productivity and mood. Don’t chastise your child for getting up to stretch her legs or have a glass of milk — she may actually get her work done more quickly and effectively if she stops mid-process for a few minutes.”
  7. Tutors Will Let Your Child Make Mistakes
    Tutoring isn’t always about the tutor and her study tips. Often the best way for a tutor to help a child is to let the student make his own mistakes, then to return to those problems later and discuss why they’re right or wrong. A wrong answer or two on a homework assignment probably means that a tutor is allowing your child to work on his own and solve problems by himself. Those wrong answers can be the basis for the tutor’s next session.
  8. The Number of Sessions Your Child Needs
    Another consideration parents should note is the length of time it will take for your child to show improvement. Holland-Johnson believes tutors should have this estimate right away: “Tutors may not tell parents upfront how many tutoring sessions are needed to help the learner. However, an effective tutor will know this information upfront and base their student’s instructional plan on the pre-assessment administered or the data provided to tutors from parents regarding their child.”
  9. Tutors Don’t Need to Be Specialized 
    Ruben says you shouldn’t expect your child’s tutor to be an expert in any specific subject. “To tutor your children, you don’t need mastery of the subjects they’re studying,” she says. “Sometimes, it’s just as helpful for a tutor to talk the student through the process of learning: ‘What did you discuss in biology class today? Can you tell me more about photosynthesis? Can you talk me through that diagram? Let’s look at the study guide together. Let’s find a place where you can write down your questions so you can ask your teacher for more information tomorrow. Can you find clarifying information in your textbook?'”
  10. Better Tutoring Isn’t Always Related to Price
    You may think that those well-known (and expensive) tutors or tutoring companies could be better than the eager college student down the street, or that one-on-one tutoring is definitely worth the extra cash over a group rate. But it’s always best to keep your options open. Figure out what methods work best for your child and be prepared to offer support along the way.


Stuart Raffeld

B. A. Operations Research & Statistics, California State University, Long Beach, Teaching Assistant undergraduate Mathematics. B.S. Mathematics, California State University, Long Beach. Mathematics University of California, Irvine, Teaching Assistant undergraduate Mathematics. Completed course work for MS Degree with 4.0 GPA. M.S. Mathematics, Kingsbridge University. Transcript available upon request. 1988-Present: Mathematics tutoring--One on one tutoring for SES students through YP institute and Academic advantage. Tutored students with low learning skills as well as very bright students. Tutored groups of four students in math classes from basic mathematics through calculus. Mathematics teaching for EFN, Inc., a private school.

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