We have been working for the past six weeks with seven different students, ranging in age from six to twenty-four, on tutoring. It is amazing the variety of needs as far as supplemental education goes! Some adults are using our services to guide them in preparing to take their GED tests. Most families have us working closely with their children’s teachers to build skills where gaps exist. I thought it might be useful to do a blogpost about tutoring.
Each teacher does things a bit different from the next; whether in a classroom, individually with a student, or in a homeschool setting. At CEG, since we are such a small firm, we find that we need to define our perspectives and services very specifically.
When we tutor, we are not working on homework. Homework, by definition, is practice of skills already acquired–there is no instruction involved. It might also be an opportunity to introduce material, not new skills, which the student will encounter in class in the near future. Another use for homework is to involve parents, not as teachers but as interesting subjects to interview or discuss with, and to allow students to explore their own interests. Here are some excellent, research-based homework tips, followed by the article they are taken from:
Research-Based Homework Guidelines
Research provides strong evidence that, when used appropriately, homework benefits student achievement. To make sure that homework is appropriate, teachers should follow these guidelines:
- Assign purposeful homework. Legitimate purposes for homework include introducing new content, practicing a skill or process that students can do independently but not fluently, elaborating on information that has been addressed in class to deepen students’ knowledge, and providing opportunities for students to explore topics of their own interest.
- Design homework to maximize the chances that students will complete it. For example, ensure that homework is at the appropriate level of difficulty. Students should be able to complete homework assignments independently with relatively high success rates, but they should still find the assignments challenging enough to be interesting.
- Involve parents in appropriate ways (for example, as a sounding board to help students summarize what they learned from the homework) without requiring parents to act as teachers or to police students’ homework completion.
- Carefully monitor the amount of homework assigned so that it is appropriate to students’ age levels and does not take too much time away from other home activities. (Marzano and Pickering, Ed Leadership, March 2007)
CEG will be offering homework strategies instruction classes in the fall. These classes will assist students in acquiring and mastering strategies to help them be successful throughout their school careers in understanding, planning, completing, and turning in homework. While they will have opportunities to complete some assignments in the homework strategies class, tutoring will not take place there. Tutoring from CEG will remain individualized.
In order for your CEG tutor to be effective, it is crucial that guidelines be established and followed. Open communication with your child’s educators at school is required to participate in CEG tutoring. Why? Because your child’s teacher is his or her educational professional, and as such has the most up-to-date information not only on what skills are necessary at what level for your child, what the materials and topics in each subject are, and what is coming next; they know what your child’s educational needs are. Although you are the expert in who your child is, they are the expert in what your child needs to know for their class. And, what they have missed. Although you may know which days your child was out with the flu, the teacher knows what was taught on those days.
CEG does not have a testing center. This is another reason for direct communication with your child’s teachers. The teachers can recommend materials which align with and enhance the curriculum. They also assess your child on a regular basis. Although you may notice certain concerning issues, i.e., a tendency to skip compound words when reading, using addition to complete multiplication problems, an inability to pronounce certain words, it is the educator who knows if this needs to be addressed in the current grading period. They also have the training to know how to address these types of things and can make recommendations to you and your tutor. Your CEG tutor will take that information, do the necessary research, and then supply supplemental, curricular, or custom-made materials to get the job done.
At CEG, it is expected that you trust the tutor and teachers to discuss and decide which skill areas need to be addressed in tutoring. You, of course, are a critical part of that conversation and your concerns are valid. Unless you are an educator, you need to trust your tutor to decide what needs to be taught. If you are an educator (we have a few parent educators already using our tutoring services) then it will be easier for you to understand the lingo and you are more than welcome to make recommendations and decisions regarding the materials and instructional methods used. All parents should expect the tutor to be able to explain what they are doing and why on demand, however, we will not discuss these issues in front of the student. This undermines the tutor’s credibility with the child and can confuse the child and cause anxiety and self-esteem issues. All such discussion should take place either in a free fifteen minute or less phone call, over e-mail, or at a scheduled meeting which will be at the consulting rate.
One last CEG term of service is that parents must be present for all tutoring sessions for minor students. This may present an unacceptable burden on some families, you may not have that kind of time. If so, CEG tutoring is not appropriate for your student. Parents are expected to control behavior; our tutors are not behaviorists. You can expect your tutor to assess and decide how long your child can work at a given task, and when it is appropriate to take a break (we all need breaks when we are working hard!). Tutors will not supply rewards or incentives to get your child to participate; that is up to you. We will be happy to go along with any reinforcement system you have in place, but it should not take up instructional time. CEG tutors are educational professionals who understand how to teach in a positive, engaging, and challenging way. Students are expected to work and to know before sessions begin with a tutor why the sessions are happening. This is the parents’ role when it comes to working with a CEG tutor. Although you are welcome to be anywhere in the room, you need to be within sight and hearing of the session for the entire session. If you do leave the room, the CEG tutor will step outside. If this becomes a regular occurrence, your tutor may cancel the agreement. After a couple of sessions and depending on your child’s learning style and subjects and assignments, a pattern for the tutoring sessions will develop where you will become comfortable with this level of involvement, we promise!
As you can see, due to our exacting formula for tutoring, we cannot serve some families. Some students only need someone to assist them in getting their homework done. Some parents cannot spend an entire tutoring session in the same room–they have to be at work, dealing with other children, or in any number of activities. That’s okay! There are other tutors and tutoring services we can recommend–we can’t be everything to everybody. We hope you will review these guidelines and contact CEG if you feel we are right for your child.