Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Tutor is a Good Friend

I don't know about you, but for me life has been like a whirlwind since school started. Although we tried to get back into our school days routine before the first bell rang, it has taken us a couple of weeks to really get back into the swing of things. Even though we're only into the first few weeks of school, there already seems to be many important events requiring my attendance.

Over the last couple weeks, Lake Travis ISD held "Curriculum Nights." These events gave parents the opportunity to meet their children's teachers and get an idea of what academic objectives and goals are for the year, and how you can help your child be successful. Next week teacher conferences begin. In these meetings, you will get more specific information regarding your child. Make it a point to attend these meetings, be on time and come prepared with your questions and concerns as each conference is only scheduled to last for 15 minutes.

So after gathering information from Curriculum Night and the teacher conference you're confident that you know what to expect from the curriculum and you've opened the lines of communication with your child's teacher. Good start, right? But why is homework becoming a daily nightmare, and your child is studying, but not getting the grades that reflect that work, or worst of all, your child has lost their love for learning? Yikes! Now where do you turn to help your child get the most out of their education? Okay, don't panic and don't be embarrassed, but your child may need...a tutor!

There are many options for tutors in our area from "chain" learning centers to individuals. You know your child, and you ultimately know what is best for your child. Interview potential tutors like you would any employee, get references and most importantly, call those references before you make your decision. When our daughter needed assistance, we chose Guyla Rollins-Gaudet, M. Ed of Education is Life. Although already a good student, our daughter really excelled once she started working with Mrs. Gaudet. She helped her develop effective study skills while she also gave her support and confidence in addition to what we gave her as parents. Our daughter now had another adult on her side and in her corner!

When selecting a qualified tutor for your child, consider these questions formulated by Guyla Rollins-Gaudet before making your decision.

1. Where are the tutorial sessions held? It is ineffective for a tutor to hold tutorial sessions in any public setting such as a library, bookstore or coffee shop. Sessions must be distraction free, as most students who are struggling to learn often have attention difficulties. A busy environment is not conducive to learning. In a public setting, students feel more inhibited to ask questions. The primary goal of individualized tutorials is for the tutor to establish a rapport with the student and the student's success depends on the critical component. Also, people tend to eavesdrop and personal information becomes public when shared in a public setting.

Although is might be more convenient to have a tutor come to your home, a qualified tutor will have their own setting where materials are available. Tutors who assess and reassess student needs must have resources such as supplemental materials, a computer and copy machine readily available, and these resources are not always available in a home or public environment.

2. Are the sessions truly individual? Some tutors actually work with students in groups, yet still charge the individual hourly rate. Group sessions are ineffective for most students. Generally, in a group, the tutor will teach to the group, individual student needs are overlooked, and therefore, the small group setting mimics a classroom setting. At times, one student may monopolize the tutor's time and the other group members are minimally helped.

3. Does the tutor have a record of success? Ask for references. Remember your child's long-term educational success depends on you choosing a tutor with a proven record. Seek out those who have been in business for a long time. Tutoring is a labor of love and skill. Many people attempt to do it, but only those who are truly dedicated, knowledgeable, and committed to children and families continue over the long term.

4. How does the tutor measure progress? Great tutors are diagnosticians who measure the progress of students continuously through the use of informal assessments, portfolios and other means. They also adjust to each child's learning style.

5. Does the person have a vision for my child's long term educational needs? Look for a tutor who has some broad educational experiences and understands the needs of students, kindergarten through college.

6. Is there follow-up homework for skills taught? To reinforce skills taught during tutorials, a student should be given supplemental materials for homework.

A few other things to keep in mind when selecting the right tutor for your child.

1. Educate yourself and read about tried and true educational methods that are research based.

2. If your child is having difficulty reading, early intervention is imperative. Don't be mislead into thinking that your child will "outgrow" this stage.

3. A tutor can be a tremendous help for those students that need to improve their writing skills. Writing is a process and it is very difficult for classroom teachers to teach writing in a large group setting. Student's writing skills tend to improve when they are in a carefree setting with no time restrictions.

4. Be cautious of tutors who encourage daily tutorials in a short period of time to "fix" a problem, or those who offer daily tutorials a few days prior to SAT/ACT testing. Skills are acquired over time.

What is most important to remember when choosing a tutor for your child is that you know your child best and ultimately what is best for him or her.

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