As a classroom teacher, I never used to promote tutoring.
"Why get a tutor? They are in school, learning all day. My students have math for 60 to 75 minutes every day. They have more than enough time to pick up the concepts. And what they don't get this year, they will next year."
This is what I used to say to myself all the time when the subject of tutoring came up. Students need to play, I said. They need time after school to learn and play and to do different things.
However, my mind changed one day when I began to understand the reality of teaching and learning. For example, all students are different learners. Of course in teachers college, they tell you this to no end. But I finally began to see it with my own eyes, and understood the reality of the situation: some students just need more TIME.
I've condensed my ideas into three reasons why tutoring yields results for most students:
- Most students learn better in a small group setting
1 on 1 attention means less distractions, more motivation, and the opportunity to do some real learning. I have worked with many students that just need the presence of an adult sitting by them and encouraging them gently as they work through problems in their work. This kind of quiet attention goes a very long way in helping them to focus and to feel motivated.
- When a student experiences a brain block, time and attention are needed to help them understand the concept.
Sitting next to a teacher also means that they are ready to jump in when necessary. Guiding questions are an essential part of my job in this moment as I point students towards a path that will help them in their thinking. Often, students are thinking about the problem in different ways, so each student requires a different type of explanation. Manipulatives and drawings are crucial tools here for many.
- Most students need help patching up holes in their understanding of math concepts.
Finally, if the student still doesn't understand, before frustration sets in, it's important to bring them back to a simpler form of the math concept that they know, then to build from there. It's likely that students have missed a step along the way, and filling in that knowledge gap will help their future learning immeasurably.
I wish I had more time for each of my students. But of course, tutoring gives each student more time. Just an hour or two a week, but that concentrated attention is wonderful for their growth as a learner.
This post was written by an elementary school teacher with the TDSB, and graduate from OISE.