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Sunday, December 03, 2017

Guest Post! Misconceptions about Tutoring

Howdy everyone,

Today I have a guest post from Sheldon at The Knowledge Roundtable.  Sheldon shares 5 misconceptions about tutoring.

5 Major Misconceptions about Tutoring

Tutoring is an oft-overlooked piece of the education puzzle. While just about everyone has memories about learning in school, a significantly smaller number of people actually have first-hand recollections about learning with a tutor. Because of this experience gap, people often make assumptions about what it is a tutor does and the different roles tutoring can play in a student’s learning.
As with most assumptions, there is a degree to which logic and oversimplification cloud reality. The fact of the matter is, great tutors can make huge impacts in students’ lives. However, when parents and educators give in to misconceptions about what tutoring actually is, students can wind up cut off from educational help and support that could make a significant difference in their growth.

Misconception 1: “Tutors are just for struggling students.”

Probably the biggest misconception about tutoring is that only students having difficulty in school can benefit. In actuality, tutors can make positive impacts in more areas than just remediation.
There are tutors that specialize in a wide variety of capacities beyond just closing learning gaps; some of these areas include:
  • ·        Foreign languages
  • ·        Standardized test prep
  • ·        Creative writing
  • ·        Entrepreneurship
  • ·        STEM skills (coding, circuitry, engineering, CAD, practical sciences)
  • ·        Fine Arts (Music, painting, sculpture, etc.)
For students that do not have access (or room in their course schedules) to explore these types of content, tutoring can be a viable avenue for enrichment.

Misconception 2: “If the teacher was doing his job, my kid wouldn’t need a tutor!”

As both a teacher and a tutor, this one stings a little. I have had this very conversation with a number of former clients. While I’ve always taken the high road and avoided the bait to speak negatively about those in my profession, I understand the frustration.
To be fair, some teachers are more effective in their craft than others are. Yet, many of the reasons students wind up seeking extra help are not exclusively due to the strengths or weaknesses of their teachers.
The reality is, classroom instruction and tutoring are very different learning scenarios. In the classroom, all of the students are vying for the personal attention of only one (or in some cases, a few) educators. Strong teachers find ways to differentiate and personalize the learning experience so that each student gets opportunities for tailored instruction and help, but there is only so much time to go around.
It can be tempting to blame the institution, but in the end, all students need different types of support to find academic success. If the allotted time in a school day isn’t enough for a student, there’s no real reason to hunt for someone or something to blame; put the energy into finding a solution.
For students who need additional attention, whether it be for support, skill-building, or additional challenge, parents must accept that time outside of class (and outside of a teacher’s control) is crucial.
In many cases, parents can step in and fulfill some of these needs. That said, there are limitations like conflicting schedules or content complexities that can turn parental support into a frustrating, counterproductive enterprise.
Enlisting the help of a qualified tutor can be the ticket for a student in need of extra, custom-made learning opportunities. Setting aside structured time outside of the school day can be the key to supporting students who need more chances to focus on learning.

Misconception 3: “Why should I hire a tutor if my child’s school has an after school homework club?”

Schools aren’t blind to the fact that kids sometimes need some extra help and support beyond the classroom. It is unfair to assume that all students have homes where academic support is at the ready.
To address this need, many schools and community centers offer after-school “homework clubs” where kids can grab a snack, work on homework, and have access to helpful adults. The problem is, students in these environments have to contend with challenges and distractions that they would not face in a typical tutoring scenario:
·        High student-to-adult ratios
·        Access to socialization and technology
·        Staff may not have the academic background to help with certain, specialized content
·        Students must be able to self-monitor to ensure work gets done
·        Limited opportunities for students to recharge after a full school day
These programs can be quite helpful for students who have the focus and discipline to make the most of them. However, for others, the results may vary.

Misconception 4: “If I pay a tutor to help my child, her scores will automatically go up.”

The old adage, “You get what you pay for,” doesn’t really fit the mold of a service like tutoring. A high-priced tutor can sit with a student session after session, but if that student never picks up a pencil or does a lick of practice, there will be no growth.
Accountability matters. Tutors help guide pupils through skill-building and practice efforts, but students must do the work to produce the results.
When enlisting a tutor, students and parents must be committed to supporting the efforts both during and between sessions to ensure they are getting their money’s worth.

Misconception 5: “Certified teachers are better tutors than non-teachers.”

While this correlation seems to make logical sense, it isn’t always true. Certified teachers are typically more expensive tutors than their non-certified counterparts are, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are automatically more effective.
When it comes to choosing a tutor, finding help that is experienced, reliable, and a good fit for your child’s needs matters more than a teaching license. It always pays to take the time to interview multiple candidates, call references, and even hold trial sessions before committing to a tutoring relationship.

Tutoring may not be the educational answer for every student, but it is an important option worth considering. The key is to evaluate it sincerely without simply giving in to the misconceptions.

Sheldon Soper is a ten year veteran of the teaching profession and currently serves as a junior high school teacher in southern New Jersey and as a writer for The Knowledge Roundtable, a free tutoring marketplace. His primary focus is building reading, writing, and research skills in his students. He holds two degrees from Rutgers University: a B.A. in History as well as a M.Ed. in Elementary Education. He holds teaching certifications in English Language Arts, Social Studies, and Elementary Education. Thomas has also worked as a tutor for grades ranging from second through high school in a wide variety of subjects including reading, writing, calculus, chemistry, algebra, and test prep. His core educational beliefs stem from the notion that all students can be successful; it is the role of educators to help facilitate growth by differentiating and scaffolding student learning on a personal level.