To Tutor or Not to Tutor? Some Considerations…

Audie Alcorn, September 28, 2017

Within the past few months a small startup company called Clark appeared on Apple’s first original TV series Planet of the Apps and secured seed funding for its new app, which is a virtual assistant for tutors. I don’t yet use the app (though I’m considering it); in any case, I’d like to refer you to an entry in their company blog, aimed at parents, titled Do We Need a Tutor?

Now, both Clark and I have something to gain, potentially, if you decide that yes, you do need a tutor for your child, so feel free to consume this accompanied with a grain or two of salt — but I honestly believe that there are some useful ideas to at least consider in the article (written by Josh Sohn).

You can find that full article here.

Below are a few highlights from the article — and how those points relate, specifically, to my work as a tutor:

  • “Frequently, parents decide to let their kids go it alone for a few weeks/months before considering outside help, which can lead to students ending up in an academic hole.” I understand that there are always finances to consider, and tutors don’t (usually) work for free, but be aware that waiting until the end of a semester or grading period to seek help can often amount to “too little, too late.” Besides, doing so can also serve as ‘parental reinforcement’ for something that might already be a bad habit on the part of the student — that is, the habit of “waiting ’til the last minute” already might be part of why the student is in academic trouble to begin with. Being proactive — in all things — is usually far better than trying to play catch-up later, when the pressure is heightened.
  • There are “three areas in which parents often contemplate hiring a tutor: test prep, subject-specific support, and general / organizational tutoring.” As ATX Tutoring & Academic Services, I offer families help in all three areas:
    • Having recently taught middle school math (5th grade through Algebra 1) for a few years at a private college-preparatory school in Austin, I currently offer a specialization in the building of foundational math skills during these important middle school and early high school years (“subject-specific support”). A point made by the Clark article: If your child simply scored low on a recent test but understands why and has a plan to ‘course-correct’ moving forward, then that is one thing. However, if your child “really is lost (and getting more so by the day)…, it may be time to look for some outside help.”
    • In addition to my background as a math teacher, in the past I have also worked as an editor, proofreader, and ghostwriter (for four books now in print); have had writing published in one national and one university journal; and furthermore have earned (with a 4.0 GPA) both a Bachelor’s as well as a Master’s degree in Philosophy. So: creative writing, grammar, and the kind of precise, analytical writing needed for high school and college courses, applications, and standardized tests is another ‘subject-specific’ specialty of mine. For many parents, the primary areas of concern academically are that their child secures solid foundations in both math and writing. If you are one of those parents, and you are wondering if you might need to hire both a math tutor and a writing tutor, you might instead be able to keep it simple and hire one tutor that can help in both areas.
    • The Clark article also makes the claim that “there is no single more important determinant of academic or professional achievement than organization[al skills].” While the article offers merely an editorial blog entry from someone at York University in Toronto as support for this claim, probably few of us would argue the point that being organized can be an important contributor to academic success. Over many years in academia, I developed organizational and study skills that helped me graduate near the top of my high school class, earn three college degrees from top universities, and wear all the hats required of a small business owner. I am happy to share the tools I have discovered.
    • And, finally, the Clark article also concedes that “tests have assumed an outsized role in our society.” Few of us involved in education would argue that this isn’t, for better and/or for worse, the case. One test that has assumed a rather ‘larger-than-life’ importance is the SAT — the scores from which many colleges use as a significant aspect of their admissions criteria. While the College Board (the administrator of the SAT), admirably, has made more test prep material available for free — on its own website and through Khan Academy — many students can also benefit from having a personal coach guide them through the preparation process, stay on track, and understand and improve upon problem areas. Having scored in the upper-90th percentiles in multiple subject areas of the SAT and GRE, this (“test-prep”) is another area in which I can help support your child in making the most of their school years (and beyond). And, I should add, this (test prep) is another area that is best not left for the last minute!

As a parent, you are faced with making countless decisions about, and for, your child — not least of all concerning their education. And it can be so tricky to tread that fine line between (a) supporting them in ways that you know will pay off down the road but that they might be resisting and (b) letting them ‘be who they’re gonna be.’ If you and your child recognize that they might need some extra support in general studies or organization, subject-specific support in math and/or writing, or in test prep — and my qualifications and specializations fit your needs — please contact me at the address or phone number found here.

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