Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Dealing with a Bad Report Card
Is it time for a tutor?

by Gretchen Keene

March 01, 2012

When a child brings home a bad report card, a parent’s initial reaction might be to get angry, followed by threats of taking away a favorite toy or activity, and rounding up with flat-out bribery.

Experts like Jane Webb and Terri Bolles, founders of the Journey to Educational Success organization (J.E.S.), have an altogether different approach. “First of all, don’t overreact,” Webb advised. “Take some time to think about the reasons that might have influenced the grades. Have things changed at home? Is there a troubling situation in the child’s life that occurred during this grading period? Be sure to include the child in the conversation.”

Maggie Schilling, area director of Club Z! In-Home Tutoring, agrees, adding, “Set up a meeting with the child’s teacher. Teachers are there to help! If the problem continues, it is a good idea to search for outside help, as in a tutor!”

Will Your Child Respond to a Tutor?

How can parents be sure their child will respond to a tutor?

“If a child treats most adults with respect (not necessarily parents) and is motivated to learn, they will surely respond to a tutor with the right pedagogical skills,” said Paul McCarthy, director of Chyten Educational Services in Carmel, Ind.

The relationship between the tutor and the child is also important, said Webb, “Does the child feel the environment is a safe one where mistakes are dealt with in a respectful manner? The tutor should also be able to assess the child’s learning style and then present lessons in a way that supports that style.”

“Our tutoring is all one-on-one, done in the home,” explained Schilling. “It is the same tutor every time. Our tutors are certified teachers and professionals with degrees. Having a consistent tutor will help tremendously. Most of our clients see improvement in grades and attitude within one to two weeks.”

That sounds great. But aside from the one-on-one interaction, most parents are unaware of what makes tutoring different from regular teaching.

“Students, many times, have missed learning basic skills along the way,” said Schilling. “Tutoring allows the student to slow down and go back over those basics. Not only do we go back and teach skills they have missed, but we also keep them up with the current curriculum in the classroom.”

Webb added, “Tutoring also takes the classroom distractions and interruptions out of the way.”

The Reluctant Student

But what about the child who just doesn’t want to be there, the reluctant student?

Schilling said, “The child who refuses to do the work and pay attention can be tricky. However, in most cases, there is a reason why they are not paying attention and we do our best to figure out what it is. We will have conferences, via email, with the child’s teacher and we will also involve the parents. When we are all on the same page and working together, things run much more smoothly.”

“Lesson plans need to be created into short sessions that keep the student engaged,” added Webb. “Hands-on activities and things that require a higher level of thinking skills help keep a child on task.”

McCarthy mentioned another approach, “We have had reluctant students. One approach that has worked well is to explain to the student that if they improve enough and do well, then their parents won’t see the need for the tutor any longer. So it would be in their best interest if they are not enjoying it to work hard and stop coming!”

Are Parents Throwing Money Away?

All this seems like the perfect solution, except for one thing: In these tough economic times, how can parents be sure they’re not throwing money away by hiring a tutor(s)?

“The parents and the child must be invested in the process,” said Webb. “If the child is unwilling or forced to go for tutoring, this can definitely hamper the experience and its outcome.”

Schilling agrees. “Tutoring can be looked at as an investment,” she said. “Our tutoring provides more than a quick fix. We always try to arm our students with necessary tools not only to succeed in a current class but to have the ability to succeed as they move through school for years. Our rates are affordable and the terms are month-to-month. No one is locked into long term contracts or payments they can’t afford.”

“Tutoring does more than just fill in the gaps for students who are struggling,” said McCarthy. “You will see test scores increase, but more importantly, the student will start to develop more confidence. When he or she has more confidence, the student will start raising his/her hand and participate more. The behavior improves and it snowballs!”