The first step in tutoring – What’s your goal?

Wednesday, July 28, 2021 by Brian Tingleff | General Tutoring

It’s not uncommon for the news of failing grades to come as a surprise during a parent-teacher conference. Some students do a better job than others at hiding their struggles in the classroom. For students whose grades are written on their face and carried through their actions and moods, the sign of poor academic performance manifests itself physically, mentally and emotionally.

Part of the solution to failing grades can be resolved with the help of a tutor. But the first step in making tutoring work is to understand your goal.

Unless the pattern of academic struggle is recognized based on recent history, and tutoring is part of the plan at the start of a new semester, then tutoring - and the tutor - are playing catch up. If academic struggles have already resulted in missed assignments, poor quiz results or even a failed test, then setting realistic goals is very important. And the setting of these goals really needs to include the student. If the student isn’t included in goal setting, then they may consider themselves off the hook if things don’t start improving.

Even the greatest tutor can’t wipe the slate clean from earlier poor performance. So, what to do if the track record isn’t going in the right direction? A key option is getting some quality tutoring. A quality tutor not only needs to understand the academic subject matter, but needs to re-build a student’s confidence by being a positive role model. A quality tutor also wants to understand the goals for the rest of the semester.

The goals should be two-fold: build the self-esteem around the subject matter, and with that in mind, work to increase understanding of the academic content. A ”backpack tutor” is ready to help with tonight’s homework, rather than proposing testing before getting started. But more than likely, tonight’s homework is built on last week’s homework, so spending some time reviewing where the student started to get lost is important in re-building self-esteem and to the overall success of the program.

A tutor’s job isn’t to downplay what happens in the classroom, or find fault, but to remain positive and optimistic. Language coming from a tutor asking if the student turned in last week’s homework on time, might sound very similar to the same question from a parent on that subject. But as a neutral partner working on the common goal of earning all the academic points possible, it’s appropriate to meeting the agreed upon goal. Thus parents and tutor are on the same page, and the student begins to understand why it all matters.

Role model tutors praise students not only for getting the answer right, but also expressing when they can’t figure it out at all. Great tutors also have an ability to find alternate ways to explain things. An alternate method to solve a word problem, or a practical example to demonstrate a point, might be the way to make meaningful academic progress.

If failing grades are causing your family stress this semester, maybe you need to make a plan that includes some role model tutoring.

If you live in the Des Moines area and would like to discuss how we can help your student turn the corner in the classroom, please reach out to us. We’ve got a role model tutor available to help at: collegetutorsia.com