Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Guest Blog Posting: A Parent's Role in Tutoring

A Parent’s Role in Tutoring
By Alexandra Berube, 

When I tutor students, parents’ involvement ranges from sitting in on the session and being completely a part of the instruction, to complete absence. What’s the best amount of parent involvement? 

In my experience, when working with very young students, having the parent present for part of each session, so that I can model for the parent how I instruct the students, can be a great learning experience for all involved. The parent sees how I approach the material, the student sees that the parent cares and is interested in what they are doing, and the tutor can see how the parent and child interact in learning. The last point can be the most telling--do the parent and child enjoy the task, or are they at odds? Are the parent’s expectations realistic? Does the child brighten when sharing instruction with the parent, or do they shut down? 

Knowing how students and their parents interact in learning when I’m not present makes a huge difference in my instruction style--if the parent is very demanding, I will go out of my way (even more than usual) to work on confidence-boosting. If the parent expects the child to be way beyond their current abilities, I can moderate the parent expectations and make everyone feel more comfortable with the student’s pace. 

I’ve also dealt with parents who are so hands-off that their feeling seems to be, “not my problem.” They feel like they are paying a tutor to do the work, and that’s where their responsibility ends. I understand when parents have busy lives, and clearly as the tutor, it is my role to instruct. But without some parent involvement, the student has far less incentive to try to improve, try to push themselves, or even try to behave. 

The most I can do in these situations is encourage the parents with very specific ways they can get involved. Can they use flashcards for vocabulary instruction during breakfast? Can reading for 15 minutes be a prerequisite for TV or internet--with the parent present and engaged, either reading at the same time, or discussing the reading material along the way?

Learning has to be a part of daily life, and the tutor cannot instill this in an hour a week. Even if the parent doesn’t know the material the tutor is instructing (Calculus, for example), the parent needs to demonstrate that they value the child’s learning and growth, and tutoring is not just for a grade.

About Alexandra Berube
Alexandra is the Managing Director of Boston Tutoring Services, a tutoring company that offers one-to-one in-home tutoring in Massachusetts. She is also a former Kindergarten teacher who also tutors students in grades K-8, in all subject areas, including test preparation. 

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