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 of your child’s work hasn’t changed. What do you do?
As a parent, getting to the bottom of what isn’t working and why will require open communication with your child, the tutor, and the teacher. Once you evaluate the situation, you’ll have several options moving forward to ensure that tutoring sessions are both enjoyable and effective.
What Does “Working” Mean?
It’s easy to see when tutoring is “working” well. Your child’s test scores will begin to inch upwards, and her 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 praise 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 a difficult test or an unexpected compliment from a teacher are all positive examples.
Importantly, parents often need to adjust their own expectations. Tutors can’t change your child overnight — nor would you want them to! Depending on how much your child is struggling to begin with, it can be a long process that parents must monitor patiently.
What if It 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-student relationship isn’t working. If your child’s grades remain stagnant, or dip even lower, if her test scores won’t budge, or if a teacher still notices the same issues in the classroom, then you will need to re-evaluate.
Communication is key. Depending on your child’s age, you can ask her directly what she likes and doesn’t like about the tutoring.
One parent of a second grader said she wasn’t seeing as much progress as she’d hoped. After she spoke with her child, the mother realized that the tutor was moving too quickly and asked her simply to adjust her pace. The child was then better able to absorb the information and understand the material, and they all saw improved results in her daughter’s academic achievement.
How Do I Evaluate a Tutor?
Just because test scores aren’t rocketing up doesn’t mean a tutor is a bad fit. It’s important to find the source of the problem rather than making impulsive decisions, especially if your child enjoys spending time with the tutor. It can take time — days, weeks, even months — for a child to develop what ultimately needs to be a trusting and productive relationship with her tutor. Finding someone your child clicks with early on is incredibly valuable.
Try sitting or listening in on a session. Most tutors will be happy to have you check in like this. You know your child best, and you’ll be able to see up close how she’s learning.
If you don’t have time for a full session, just speak to the tutor candidly for a few minutes before or after she meets with your child. Ask her 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.
For instance, a parent of one fifth grader knew that her son absolutely adored his tutor, but his grades just weren’t changing. After asking for the tutor’s notes, the mother saw that her son was often unfocused, so she spoke with the tutor about keeping the sessions more tightly organized and saw the results improve from there.
What Should I Do Next?
It’s OK to initiate a change. Just like us, children respond differently to personalities and communication styles. It’s completely acceptable — and may even be advisable — to try out two or three tutors before settling on the one who is the best fit.
Before swapping tutors, however, make sure you’ve given each one the opportunity to connect and make changes as necessary. Discuss your goals and expectations with the tutor, and check in to make sure she is on target.
Understand that you won’t hurt a tutor’s feelings. She can handle feedback and would indeed welcome the chance to better communicate with you and your child. You both want the tutoring relationship to succeed, but you know your child best. A tutor who is the right fit can be a friend, tool, and ally in your child’s education.