Ann Bednarski: What does a tutor do? Improve students’ lives
April 20, 2013
During the past few months, several people have asked me about the function of a tutor. The short answer is that a tutor assesses a student's needs and tailors a plan for that student. Often, as a tutor, I saw improved communication and progress in many if not all members of a family. Success is catchy; when parents observe a change in attitude in their child and improvement, stress is relieved and everyone is happier.
As a teacher and tutor I taught many people from 5 to 50 years old; some came from different countries. Some were public school students from grades 3-12; some were in the military; some were college students; and some were foreigners trying to master English.
Many wrote critiques about the tutoring experience. I have compiled their feedback. The following is a summation of the things students found valuable.
A child does not have to be struggling in school to benefit from a tutor. In fact, a tutor could be the best investment you could make in your child's future. A good tutor becomes an advocate for the child, a positive force, a partisan motivator and a confidante. Often the tutor can discover the student's well-masked interests and direct those curiosities for immediate and future success. Children are responsive to having someone there exclusively for them.
Parents are their children's first and most important teachers. It is from them they learn a sense of values and themselves, as well as morals and priorities. However, parents often are too intimately involved with their children to teach them academics. If a child is struggling with some subject or concept, the parent-child bond often causes frustration when the parent becomes the teacher.
Tutoring offers a family is a necessary balance among schools, home and the education process. More specifically, with a tutor a child cannot fail; there is no competition. Furthermore, tutors do not generally give grades; they give guidance, encouragement and one-on-one attention. They have the privilege of going over and over a concept until they master it. Private instructors are not bound by a contract that requires daily progression in a specific area. Instead, the task is to hone and instruct students in basic concepts. Frequently the classroom teacher must progress whether the class understands or not.
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Often it is during the first five years of school that students begin to "drown" academically. By the time the youngster enters junior high or middle school, his expectations of what he can accomplish are quite low. Commonly, by high school, students are defeated, disappointed and disillusioned. They are ready to quit trying.
Educating our children is an overwhelming task that is not always accomplished in our overcrowded schools, which have added several social issues to the curriculum. Parents need to augment their children's public school education. Tutoring does a lot to bridge the gap because it brings the learning process to a child in a private, individually paced, confidential manner.
Often a student resists a tutor or any special help because he feels they are recognitions of stupidity, which makes him feel labeled as "different." Certainly the child's feelings must be considered. However, negative feelings are quickly dispelled once the effects of the tutoring are seen. Generally, students experience positive changes within a couple of weeks. Often they begin to boast to their friends of having a tutor. The increase in self-esteem fuels the desire to succeed. In fact, increased self-esteem and motivation might be the greatest rewards of private tutoring.
Other benefits of tutoring include an ability to think independently and approach problem-solving in a variety of ways. Add to that self-discipline and good study habits that result from a well-guided personal effort. A mentor can be a very "significant other" during the developmental years. Having a tutoring supplement generally yields positive habits that often produce higher personal standards for achieving excellence throughout life.
Ann Bednarski of Carson City is a career educator and journalist.