Managing Expectations: A Tutor’s Insight for Parents

As much as we’d like, tutors can’t always act as a magic bullet for bad grades. A tutor shares what parents can reasonably expect.

When I first began tutoring, I believed I was responsible for my students’ grades.

If we spent our hour together studying for a test and my student did well, I felt invaluable; if she didn’t end up getting the grade that she hoped for, I would often feel that it was my fault. However, after working with students over the past ten years, as both a teacher and a tutor, I now see things differently. Drawing upon my experience, I've compiled my thoughts on what you can expect from tutoring sessions.

The Tutor’s Goal

Doing well in school takes a lot of hard work. Teachers provide a foundation for learning, and it is a student’s responsibility to use that framework to construct a meaningful understanding of the content — that is what homework, projects, and studying are for.

Usually, you can’t earn a great grade by just attending class and listening. Instructors want their students to demonstrate mastery of the material, and to do that, they have to genuinely understand the topic at hand. Many students are organized and determined enough to put all of the pieces together on their own. Others, however, need a bit of extra help synthesizing classroom content into meaningful knowledge, and that is what a great tutor can offer.

Effective tutoring should enable students to achieve an “Aha!” moment. By providing alternative explanations, more concrete examples, or diverse opportunities for practice with immediate feedback, a tutor can help a child see how all of the pieces fit together. Or, if she already “gets it,” a session can be spent creating effective study tools that will help a child to demonstrate her knowledge in the classroom. This, though, is as far as tutoring can take a student. Once a strong foundation has been laid, it is up to the child to put in the time, on her own, to commit that material to memory.

Only Half the Battle

For a long time, this simple reality was a source of professional/personal frustration. With just one to two hours of tutoring per week, most of my clients were able to become independent, confident students — they developed an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses as learners, and they acquired a repertoire of study strategies and writing tools that they used successfully.

There were always an occasional few, however, who remained inconsistent. With my help, these kids did better in school, but I never really felt that they were achieving their full potential, nor did their parents. What I realized, though, was that their performance was a reflection of their own efforts, not mine.

Tutoring is a tool that can help a child gain a better understanding of material, and more effectively organize and demonstrate that knowledge, but it isn’t a magic bullet for academic success.

Instead, to do well in school, a child must commit to learning. She has to choose to take advantage of the resources provided by her teacher, and those created with the help of her tutor, in order to independently achieve mastery of the material through good old-fashioned hard work. Tutoring can get her much of the way there, but ultimately it is the student who has to cross the finish line on her own.

Interested in finding a tutor for your child? Use Noodle's tutoring search to find a qualified tutor or tutoring center in your area.

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