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What Tutoring is Not…

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

Why do most people hire a personal trainer?  There are various reasons, but the main reason to hire them is to push you past your own physical and mental limitations so that you can achieve the level of physical fitness you desire.  It means you are willing to change your eating habits, commit to a schedule, and surrender your pride to allow the trainer to command you past the point where you would normally have quit.  If you don’t go along with the plan that the trainer prescribes, you shouldn’t expect to get the results you desire.

The funny thing is most parents do not come into tutoring with the same mentality as hiring a personal trainer.  I constantly explain to my clients that a tutor is like having a personal trainer for your mind, yet many parents and students come with the wrong idea of what the purpose of good tutoring is.  Repeatedly, I have seen parents and students set themselves up for failure no matter how good their tutor is simply because they are unclear of the pitfalls.  I would like to clarify some of the main pitfalls by giving a few examples of what not to expect from effective tutoring.

Effective Tutoring is not:

A short-term fix for a long-term problem:          

Would you expect a morbidly obese person who overeats constantly to become a buff swimsuit ready model in a month’s time?  Yeah, right.  Maybe if they work the P90-X workout with double the intensity.  So why do some parents think they can bring a child that has been failing all year to a tutor with a month or two left to go in the school year and think that they are going to see drastic changes, especially if the child has a low work ethic to begin with?

Chances are, your child has been missing fundamental skills in that subject for a while, so it’s going to take a while to find and fill in the gaps of their skills.  If they’ve been failing for a while, you probably should have acted sooner.  Prepare to hire a tutor for the long haul.   Anyone who promises otherwise is probably lying to you.

It is not – A substitute for independent study and homework time:           

If you expect to lose weight, you have to do what is expected even when you are away from your trainer.  Your eating habits, sleep habits, and way of life have to change towards habits of health.  If not, all the training in the world will be undermined by your bad diet or lack of nutrients you are putting in your own body.

Too many times have students either waited to do their homework during their tutoring sessions, or left the sessions and never study what was covered during the session until they come back.  Instead of focusing on the skills they are behind in, they are looking for a quick fix to help them pass the next assignment.  Great, they get an A on the math project, but little Johnny still doesn’t know six times seven even after he counts on his fingers.  You can feed and feed a body with all the nutrients you want, but if you don’t allow digestion, your body gets nothing out of it.  Same goes with feeding knowledge into the brain… you have to study to digest it.

It is not – To be considered optional… especially if you are paying for it.

You go to the doctor and he tells you that you are going to have a massive stroke in exactly 2 months unless you take a pill and do 10 push-ups a day.  The good news is you already paid for the pill, you just have to take it and do the push-ups.  He prescribes the dosage to you and says to fill the prescription immediately; just a little work on your part. Would you follow his directions?   I hope you would.

Now for the tutoring perspective:  You hire a tutor because you know your child is going to fail if he or she doesn’t get help.  How effective is prescribing work to a student to reinforce a lesson and the student comes back to the next session without it done?  What if they never even look at it?  These students regard what they are doing at tutoring to be optional (so is failing if you want it to be).  What is even worse is that the parent is paying for it and they condone this ambivalence.  Then, when the child doesn’t pass or the grade stays the same, the parent wonders what went wrong.  Wait, didn’t you pay for the program to help train your child to do better?  What happened to the work that was assigned since – oh… they never did it.  As cliché as it sounds, we all know how a little bit of effort can go a long way.

These and many more things can be mentioned as the wrong way to look at tutoring, but the things mentioned in this article highlight some of the major issues.  After seeing many students come and go, and seeing many stay and grow, I understand that true tutoring is a process of training and dedication that needs time to be truly effective.  I have seen so many students actually benefit from tutoring and leave with fully buffed brains, carrying the skills they have learned into the future because they used it as it is meant to be used: As a support for their own efforts, not a substitution.  If your child goes to private school, does that mean all you have to do is pay and let the school do the rest?  No.  You have to be just as active as you would if your child went to public school if your child is going to get the best out of their education.  Any parent with the mindset of “I paid for it, and that’s all I have to do” is not only hindering the tutoring process, but they are hindering their child’s education as a whole.

– Jamal L. Burt

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