Do your students really need private tutoring from you,
or is it something else?
I received an email from a parent the other day telling me—not asking—but telling me, that her son would be staying after school each day for the next six weeks for tutoring to get his grade up to passing. Report cards had recently been sent home and he was far, far below a passing grade in 6th grade Language Arts.
Despite several emails sent about this student’s progress (or lack of), despite making the parent aware of the constant, daily, off-task behavior and the missing homework assignments and the silliness throughout the year, I was told that the child would be staying after school each day for tutoring.
Oh, yeah? I am?
Thank you for determining what I do for free in my post-contract hours.
According to the dictionary, a tutor is
a. A private instructor.
b. One who provides additional, special, or remedial instruction.
I am not currently a private instructor. I have done private tutoring in the past and I was very well-compensated for it.
This particular child does need “additional, special, or remedial instruction.” He doesn’t have learning gaps—he has behavior gaps.
Currently, I am available for an hour each Wednesday after school for anyone who needs it. Sometimes no one comes and I leave early. Or I stay anyway to get extra work done in the classroom. Sometimes students do come to tutoring when they are stuck on the homework, or when they bombed a quiz and need help understanding the questions. Those are excellent reasons for a teacher to provide extra help, but once a week is plenty to cover those purposes.
In the case of this particular student, he absolutely did not need tutoring, and I have plenty of data to back that up. During his unit test that the school district makes us give our kids, he played with his pencil, drew pictures of poop on the front cover, and kicked the back of the chair in front of him multiple times. Then I moved him to another area of the room where he continued to find anything and everything to become involved with.
And that’s just on a quiet testing day. You can imagine what it’s like on a normal class day where we have multiple stations and activities going on.
Oh, but he “needs tutoring” to raise his grade.
No, he needs to pay attention, follow instructions, and complete his work… and possibly get a whoopin’.
I am not about to teach and model and help and explain concepts during class while a child plays around and ignores me and goofs off and then stay after school to teach the exact same material again because he chose not to pay attention in class the first time.
So how did I respond to the parent’s demand
that he stay after school each day until his grade came up?
I sent an email reply stating that this child continues to make choices during class time that are causing him to not complete (or even start) his work. I mentioned that he has copies of the assignments that he can work on at home and that he can come in on Wednesdays to get help with the things he’s stuck on.
That comment puts the responsibility back on the student (he can work on those assignments at home) and back on the parent (who should expect to see those assignments at home).
I received no response. A couple of Wednesdays have come and gone since then, and even when I ask this student if I’ll see him on Wednesday, he says he can’t because he has practice after school.
Ok, so how do you determine when a student really, truly needs tutoring for the right reasons and when it’s really not a tutoring issue?
4 Reasons a Student Does NOT Need Tutoring from You
1) The student typically does well during class discussions and other activities but simply doesn’t turn in assignments due to off-task actions.
2) The student completes some activities but not others and you can directly pinpoint it to a behavioral issue.
3) You work with the student in small-group situations during class and you know he knows the material, but as soon as he’s “released” so you can pull another group, he’s off-task again and doesn’t complete the work.
4) The student is unfocused and off-task even during one-on-one or small group instruction (because if the teacher is setting aside time during class to pull one or a few students and that student still misbehaves and disrupts the rest of the small group, then something else is going on and it’s not a tutoring issue).
These reasons are not to say that we simply give up and ignore the underlying issue; that issue still needs to be addressed so the student doesn’t end up in an achievement gap. I’ve had students in class before who, based on their records and their daily behavior, have created huge learning gaps for themselves due to years and years of missing out on instruction, learning, and achievement opportunities because of wild, unfocused, off-task behavior.
I’m just saying that these are not reasons for the teacher to stay after school for an hour each day to re-teach the day’s concepts as a result of the student playing around so much that no learning occurred. It’s too convenient for a parent to simply pick up the child a little bit later each day to address the low report card grade than it is to straighten up that backbone, be a parent, and handle the real issue.
Plenty of parents handle the issue the second you mention it to them, but plenty more do nothing: ignore you, ignore the issue, or throw up their hands and say, Yeah, he’s always been like that. Yes, that’s our baby. That’s how he is.
For things to change in the child’s behavior, the parent may have to be inconvenienced to take notice of it and to do something about the root cause. A child staying after school for tutoring each day is not handling the real issue and it only inconveniences the teacher and then the cycle continues each day because there’s no real consequence.
But if it’s inconvenient for parents to come in for a parent-teacher meeting, if it’s inconvenient for them to receive a daily phone call at work about the classroom issue, and if it’s inconvenient for them to think about summer school because of all the failing grades, then parents are more likely to handle the real problem.
Let’s stop assuming that we owe free tutoring to every child who isn’t successful. Instead, let’s focus on what tutoring really is designed for, and make sure that we are not giving up personal family time outside of school hours to conduct tutoring that really does not solve the problems in the classroom. In addition, let’s not give up time that could be better spent with a child who really, truly DOES need tutoring.