If your family has used a Connections tutor at any point, you know tutoring is an investment in your child’s future. For many families, that investment can be a sacrifice, so in this blog, we’ll be discussing ways to maximize the value of your child’s tutoring sessions. Your child’s tutor might have other, situation-specific suggestions for you; don’t be afraid to ask!
One way to make sure that tutoring is as productive as possible is to make sure that the tutoring environment is conducive to learning. If your child is meeting the tutor in a public space, such as a library, you don’t have much control over the environment. However, if they are meeting in your home, be sure to carve out a space with minimal distractions: turn off the TV and radio, send siblings to another room (or outside), and put off doing chores in that area. It doesn’t take much to distract a child or teenager, and even popping in to ask a question can derail instruction for five to ten minutes. If your child has a phone or other electronic device, we recommend keeping it in another room – or zipped up in a backpack at a minimum. Kids get distracted just looking at the phone, watching the screen light up, and hearing it vibrate as notifications roll in; if they need it for something tutoring-related, the tutor will let you know. Otherwise, out of sight and out of mind is best.
Another strategy that goes closely with number one is making sure that physical needs are met before a tutoring session. Kids that are hungry, tired, and otherwise uncomfortable are less able to focus on instruction. Please stick to a reasonable bedtime the night before tutoring sessions, and make sure your child has dinner or a good snack before tutoring begins. We know this can definitely be a challenge on busy school nights, but it can significantly impact the effectiveness of tutoring sessions.
Also, Connections wants to be your teammate in this process, which means communicating with you is a priority. Our tutors will modify their plans based on feedback and concerns that you have, so please email us in advance if you see your child struggling with a specific subject or assignment. If you wait until the session to mention concerns, the tutor can’t always make adjustments on the fly. We will also use tutor panel notes to communicate with you, and we are happy to touch base before and after tutoring sessions. We do ask that you don’t interrupt with comments and suggestions during a tutoring session; we work hard to develop rapport and focus with your kids, and interruptions can easily derail that. If you want, keep a list of notes and questions to chat about later; we’re happy to do that!
Tutors rely on you to reinforce what they are doing at home. Most students don’t see their tutors every day, but the material they are covering should be reviewed at least that often. If your child’s tutor helps him or her make flashcards, be sure those flashcards get reviewed daily. If the tutor creates an organization system for managing homework, go through it with your child every night. Take what the tutor is doing and reinforce it at home; the changes you are looking for will happen so much more quickly if you do. It is worth mentioning that the environment you provide for homework is every bit as important as the environment you provide for tutoring. We strongly recommend creating a homework zone in a public space – like the dining room – and making sure that zone remains technology-free. If a computer is needed for an assignment, you’ll be better able to monitor its use. Many students, especially middle and high schoolers, disappear to their rooms to “work on homework” for hours, but they are really doing everything but homework. The work will get done faster – and better- in a quiet, supervised space.
It can also be helpful to set realistic expectations. Sometimes kids – and parents – expect to see immediate results from tutoring, and they become easily discouraged when growth takes time. Please constantly reassure your kids that tutoring does work, just not overnight. If your child needs a pep talk, communicate that to the tutor; he or she can probably help identify smaller milestones worth celebrating – milestones that show your child is on the right track.
One final piece of advice is to keep communication positive. If you are frustrated with your child’s teacher, it is so easy to complain in front of your kids. However, that undermines your child’s motivation to work harder because they learn to view the teacher as the problem. Even if you don’t like the teacher’s approach, please model respect for him or her. The tutor will do the same. The same principle applies to talking to the tutor about your child; we know you probably have some very real concerns, but when a child hears you saying, “He never does this…” or “She just isn’t trying!”, that can make it harder for the tutor to establish rapport. Your child might very well not be trying, but we don’t want the kids we tutor to feel ashamed about receiving help, and we want them to know that our tutors believe in them and their potential. If you do have specific concerns or frustrations, the best way to mention them to the tutor is in an email.
At Connections, our primary goal is to work as a team with you, your children, and their teachers. Teamwork is just that: work, but it is absolutely worth the effort. We are so honored that you have chosen us to be your teammates, and we are committed to providing a good return for your investment. Thank you for partnering with us!
Written by Laura Simon, Connections blog contributor