Monday, April 09, 2012

Tutors, especially peer to peer tutors, can be a great thing for struggling students. Having someone your own age, or even just a few years older, explain the concepts for students can often be a motivator for success. Near age tutors often bring to the table a unique perspective on how to help students grasp difficult material.

With that said, I struggle with the pervasive attitude of some students and parents that getting a tutor will solve all their academic struggles. A tutor won't help a student who is doing nothing in class, by choice. A tutor cannot take the place of time set aside at home to do homework, read, work on projects,etc... A tutor should be someone who helps with specific skills or problems, helping that student over the rough places.

Too often students who are failing, when asked about their game plan, or how a teacher can help them, just give the pat answer, "I'm getting a tutor." I spoke with one young high schooler recently who is failing all his classes, and tried to get some insight into how I could help assist him. His answer, "I'm moving in with my dad this summer and there's tutors there." OK, great.... but right now, you sit in class with your hoodie up, listening to youtube videos, even during classes where there are two teachers begging to help you. A tutor won't fix that. A tutor won't make up for all the missed hours of instruction you've intentionally chosen to avoid.

Another young man, who passed only one class on his recent report card, when asked what he needed help with to be successful, said, "No worries, I'm getting a tutor." When I asked about his English class, in which I am a co-teacher, he said he doesn't do the work because his computer is broken often. I suggested paper and pencil. He said he doesnt' have either. I pointed out where he could get those. Then he said he doesn't understand what to do. I said I'd be happy to help him. To this he said, "Nah, I still won't understand. I'm just getting a tutor," as if a tutor is magically going to make it all perfectly clear.

Again, I am not anti-tutor at all. I've seen some students experience great success working with tutors, but ALL of those successes were students who were already taking advantage of the opportunities for help that were presented to them. They came prepared to class, they asked questions, they participated and tried to the best of their abilities. They just needed a little extra oomph of help to make it through.

Students who are not making an effort on their own, at all, are not going to magically 'cured' by a tutor. A tutor cannot fix all their problems until they themselves accept some responsibility for their own success.

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