By Nathalie Kunin
Everyone’s happy. Your child loves her tutor. They laugh and learn together, the sessions fly by. It all seems to be going well and she even looks forward to the tutoring. But then the scores come back. The teacher’s opinion hasn’t changed. What do you do?
As a parent, getting to the bottom of what isn’t working and why will require strong communication skills between yourself, your child, tutor and teacher. Once you evaluate the situation, you’ll have several options moving forward to ensure that tutoring sessions are both enjoyable and efficient.
What Does Working Mean?
It’s easy to see when tutoring is going well. Your child’s test scores begin to inch upwards, and their grades in school will generally improve, by a little at first and eventually perhaps by a lot. Further evidence will come from the teacher, who may compliment your child’s improved focus, performance, or behavior in class.
These results and feedback may come after the tutor has been working for several weeks or even months. It doesn’t always happen right away, and progress can be inconsistent, but a strong grade on an otherwise difficult test or an unexpected compliment from a teacher are all positive examples.
Importantly, parents often need to adjust their expectations. Tutors can’t change your child overnight – nor would you want them to! Depending on how much the student is struggling to begin with, that can be a long process which the parents must monitor patiently.
What Isn’t Working?
If after a semester or more of working together these success indicators aren’t apparent, it may be a sign that the tutor relationship isn’t working. If the student’s grades remain stagnant, or they dip even lower, if their test scores won’t budge, or if a teacher still notices the same issues in the classroom, then you will need to evaluate.
Communication is key. Depending on your child’s age, you can ask them directly what they like and don’t like about the tutoring.
A parent of a second grader said they weren’t seeing as much progress as they’d hoped, but after she spoke with her child, the parent was able to request that the tutor simply slow down. The child was then better able to absorb the information and understand the material.
How to Evaluate a Tutor
Just because test scores aren’t rocketing up doesn’t mean a tutor is a bad fit. Especially if your child enjoys their time together, it’s important to find the source of the problem rather than making any rushed decisions. It can take time – days, weeks, even months – for a child to develop what’s ultimately a very trusting and productive relationship with their tutor. Remember, the tutor has only just met your child.
Try sitting in or listening in on a session. Most tutors will be happy to have you check in like this. You know your child best, and this way you’ll be able to see up close how they’re learning.
If you don’t have time for a full session, before or afterwards just speak to the tutor candidly for a few minutes. Ask them how it went, the good and the bad. Many tutors actually take notes on their sessions and would be happy to share them with you.
A fifth grade parent knew that her son absolutely adored his tutor, but the grades just weren’t changing. After asking the tutor for his notes, the parent saw that her son was often unfocused, so the parent was able to instruct the tutor to better keep the sessions tightly organized, and the results improved from there.
It’s OK to initiate a change. Just like us, children respond differently to personalities and communication styles. It’s completely fine to try out one or two tutors before settling on the one that’s the best fit.
However, before swapping tutors, make sure you’ve given them the opportunity to change and connect. Discuss your goals and expectations with them, and check in to make sure they are on target.
You won’t hurt a tutor’s feelings. They can handle feedback and would indeed love the chance to better communicate with their student.
You not only want the best, but you know your child best. The right tutor can be a friend, tool and ally in your child’s education.
Nathalie Kunin is the owner of Team Tutors.