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5 Tutoring Challenges

Learn how to address these common issues when you get a tutoring job.

Each student comes to tutoring sessions with prior knowledge and skill sets. It's up to the tutor to find out what the student already knows and what skills need to be developed to meet academic goals. But sometimes problems arise.

Joan Rooney, vice president of instruction for Tutor.com, Paula Bishop, owner and education consultant at Tutor Doctor, Danielle Vitorla, of Kumon Math and Reading Centers, and Caitlin Grabarek, director and lead tutor of Tutoring Club in Westminster, Colo., are all very familiar with these challenges. They are very common and lots of tutors have to deal with them. Here is their advice on how to tackle these issues.

  1. Student Is Unmotivated
    Extra studying can be a drag. But it's the job of parents and the tutor to motivate the child, and make acquiring knowledge and insight fun. "In all forms of education, from tutoring to classroom work, it is the responsibility of the educator to motivate the student to learn," Rooney says.

    What to do: Rooney suggests tutors learn about their students' interests outside of the classroom and apply that to the learning process. "We encourage our tutors to provide a 'hook' or real-world situation that relates the tutoring content to a topic the student is interested in," Rooney says. Parents can help by communicating their child's interests. 

  2. Student Won't Do the Work
    When students won't work, they lack the mental "hooks" or drive to create new learning and understanding. Tutors need to build on prior knowledge, proficiency and individualized learning. "Each student is unique; the tutor decides what will work best," Bishop shares.

    What to do: Sometimes, the best mental "hooks" come in the form of rewards or incentives for completing the assignment. "Most of the time the student is given rewards in fun educational games after they have completed their work," says Bishop. This is not to say children should always be "bribed" into doing their homework; the goal is to kick start the good behavior. Eventually, the sense of accomplishment becomes the reward in and of itself. 

    Vitorla adds, "The most effective way to handle students who don't want to complete their work is to show enthusiasm for their progress every single day. While parents and instructors give praise for hard work, they also acknowledge that not everything is easy. It's important for children to learn that hurdles are a natural part of life. In order to meet a goal and feel success, it takes discipline and hard work."

  3. Student Struggles With New Concepts
    When teaching a new idea, a student needs time to practice and master it before it can be used as a building block for further learning.

    What to do: Educational games provide a fun way for students to practice math skills such as counting, addition, estimation and measurement, and more. The students have a new concept and a fun way in which to practice that concept. "When the tutor is not seeing the results they expected, they will either try a new method of teaching, or, in some cases, recommend another tutor be brought in," Bishop says.

  4. Student Gets Anxious
    Many tutoring challenges arise from stress and anxieties. The student and parent have seen a lack of learning in a traditional classroom setting. They come to a tutor because of failure, not success. Often times, they associate learning with this failure, not with the potential for success.

    What to do: The most important thing the tutor needs to understand is the student's learning style. It's important to make learning an adventure, so they can approach their work with the excitement of knowing they can learn for themselves. Experimenting with new methods that align with a student's individual needs is easier in a one-to-one setting. The tutor, when not observing progress, will adjust instruction. Tutors become knowledgeable about their student's needs and anticipate misconceptions in existing knowledge.

  5. Parents Are Applying Too Much Pressure
    "Dealing with high-pressure parents is a challenge for any teacher or tutor," says Grabarek. "Very often what we see with children of high-pressure parents is that the kids are focused on trying to get a perfect score rather than trying to understand the concepts being taught. When there is no room for error at home, these students come in with a lot of anxiety about the subjects they struggle with."

    What to do: "Good tutors teach children that lack of perfection in the beginning doesn't equal failure and encourage their students to experiment before getting to the right answer," Grabarek shares. It's hard to see children struggle, but maintaining open communication about how a child is progressing and what the tutor is doing to facilitate that will help parents feel more in control. When a tutor can suggest a way for parents to help at home, it will alleviate their anxiety about their student's work and, in turn, the pressure they put on their child.

Students need gentle support and encouragement. Keep the focus on accomplishments so the student gains confidence to take on more complicated tasks as he moves through school and life.

Text source: Rhonda Cratty

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