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Early Warning Signs

How to Spot When Your Child Needs One-on-One Tutoring

When your children begin the journey into schooling, a lifestyle change takes place. Kids go from playing and laughing to learning and growing. Often, this transition is met with some challenges. Especially when you come to find that your child has not reached the academic level they should be upon entering Kindergarten. Which is a very stressful event. 

Parents can often all agree that finding out your child is behind in school is one of the most difficult conversations to have about your 5 or 6 year old. They are at an age where we still view them as young, maybe even “babies” in some aspects. But, nevertheless, they are being judged and measured by adults on their reading, writing, and math skills. Much like other adults. 

If your child is behind from the get-go, starting a one-on-one tutoring program is a terrific solution. Here are some things to watch out for in your child’s early formative schooling years to ensure they are not in need of one-on-one tutoring. 

Fatigue or Lack of Endurance

Does your child seem tired or lazy during learning moments? Can they only focus for 5 or less minutes before they are giving up or throwing tantrums? These are clear indicators that parents should seek tutoring intervention. Endurance is a huge part of learning. Starting from the earliest days of Kindergarten to the tertiary years of college. If your child struggles with endurance, starting a regiment with a tutor can help build it. Your child will then get the opportunity to practice working for longer periods of time until, eventually, they become excited to sit down and read for 30 minutes. 

Indifference

Indifference is the end of creativity. Indifference leads students to Mediocre Land where they catch a bus into I Don’t Care Anymore-Ville. Indifference is a virus that can spread in schools. If your child appears indifferent about their school work, this may be a sign that they could benefit from having a one-on-one tutor. Indifference generally blossoms from a lack of motivation or interest in the subject matter – two things that one-on-one tutors can help establish. Don’t let indifference be the blockade preventing your child from a full learning experience. 

Failing Grades and/or Assignments

The early weeks of a new school year are a great time to observe your child’s schooling behavior. Watch them as they work on their homework. See what strategies they use to study or stay organized. This can clue you in to how devoted they are to their classes. Because without devotion to your school work, failing becomes a more likely possibility. Failing early assignments or tests is a big sign that your child needs to seek one-on-one tutoring. Tutors don’t just teach content, they also teach tools. And students who find themselves failing can use these tools to grow and stay ahead of their coursework. 

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Starting the Semester Off Right

The Boise School District is gearing up to begin the Fall term for the 2019-2020 school year. This means parents are scrambling to buy school supplies, school clothes, and prepare for the schedule shift. With the incoming school year about a week away, students need to start getting in the mindset of school. The right mindset for school can include a lot of different things. 

Some students will let out a big “whoo-saw” as they prepare for upcoming stress. Others will spend every moment they can with friends. And some students might spend the next week in front of the TV letting their brains chill out before getting crazy. These are all great preparation techniques, but there are some tangible things that need to be taken care of as well. 

Plan Ahead

Most schools now use some kind of internet portal to keep students, parents, and administrators in the loop regarding a student’s progress in a particular class. These online portals are likely available for your perusing now. Start the peruse! Look at your teacher’s classroom page, read their profile, learn more about them. Take a look at their classroom portal and familiarize yourself with it. This will help you get a better idea of what your semester will look like and will help you plan for the upcoming school term. 

Develop a Calendar

Calendars are hugely important, especially for high school kids. By the time most students start high school, they are involved in some kind of extracurricular. Whether that is football, chess club, theatre, or band, lots of students have things going on outside of the school day. Create a calendar that accounts for everything you are involved in. Yes. This means including your classes, practices, meetings, driver’s ed, eating, homework time, family time, and friend time. Having one place where you keep everything going on in your week will help you stay on track. 

Organize Your Supplies

School supplies are super fun to buy. I remember getting so excited to buy school supplies every year. And I won’t lie, I still get excited every time I walk into Staples or Office Max. Supplies help us stay organized and keep our chaos under control. Since your supplies do so much to keep you organized, they deserve to be organized as well. Once you have purchased the supplies you will need, organize them so they can be as effective as possible. Build your class binders, label your dividers, individualize your notebooks. Do whatever you need to to keep your supplies organized so they can help you stay organized during the school year. 

Meet Your Teachers

I know, I know. This seems a little scary at first. Many students think the best time to meet your teacher is on the first day of school. But this isn’t really true. Meeting your teachers before the school year begins is really beneficial. Meeting your teachers gives you an idea what to expect from their class so you can prepare for the nuances assigned to it. Learn about their background, talk to them about their teaching style, discover the classroom rules and guidelines. Plus, teachers love to meet their students. The better your teachers knows you, the better prepared they are to teach you in a manner that is best for you. So don’t be afraid to send them an email, drop by with a coffee, or friend them on Facebook (if they allow it!).

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Setting Gears in Motion: Study Habits

School is a complicated place. There are students of a variety of ages, backgrounds, and academic levels. There are hundreds of rooms, a giant parking lot, a large sporting complex, lockers gallor, and so many people it’s hard to keep track. School is overwhelming. So overwhelming in fact, it can cause anxiety and stress for many students. Once the anxiety and stress sets in, the students check out academically and their grades suffer as a consequence. 

But schooling doesn’t have to be a complicated mess. It can have structure and routine. For example, having a steady study schedule that encompasses all of your classes can really help eliminate stress and make room for discovery. And creating a steady study schedule begins from day one of classes. Not halfway through the semester. If you are working on creating a solid study schedule, there are some pointers to keep in mind. 

Small Increments Beat Big Ones

Beware the cram session. Cramming has been scientifically proven, over and over, to be unsuccessful and to be debilitating for students. Cramming leads to almost zero retention and can cause further anxiety before a test. Instead of spending a large block of time studying, break your block into several small blocks. For example, instead of planning to study from 5pm to 9pm the night before the test, spend the week before the test studying in 20 minute spurts each day. As we all know, attention spans are generally quite small, so make sure you are catering your study time to your attention span. 

Visual Reminders

Sticky notes are a student’s best friend. Sticky notes help you keep track of your day and your calendar, as well as important details to remember. Sticky notes are excellent visual reminders to study. Stick one on your vanity or your mirror at home. Stick them to your school work. Trust me, if you see a sticky note five times a day that says don’t forget to study, you likely won’t forget. During college, I went as far as to stick my reminder notes on my food in the refrigerator to ensure I would see them. Girls gotta eat!

Another form of visual cues for studying is color coding. You can color code your sticky notes if you so desire. But color coding mostly refers to the methods you use for actually studying. If you are a visual person, use multiple colors of pens, pencils, or highlighters during your studying to categorize information. The colors act as a secondary means for retaining the information. If you remember what category the color represents, it can help you remember the material in the category. Next time you’re studying, color code your flash cards, your vocabulary terms, your math formulas, or anything else you are studying and see if it makes a difference for you. 

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Studying is not a sprint. It doesn’t happen over a small period of time. Studying takes months and months to truly perfect. And the American public school system doesn’t lend well to this. We only give our students a few months in a class before we switch things up. Which makes creating a study routine from the get-go even more critical. Your study routine might take some getting used to, but if you remain vigilant and consistent, it will come naturally to you and studying will become a part of your everyday routine. 

Once it becomes a part of your routine, you won’t have to stress over an upcoming test, because you have been slowly preparing for it for weeks. If you feel like a deadline for an essay is approaching rapidly, have no fear, your study routine has already given you time to outline and draft your essay. Now it just needs to be polished. Remember this next time you are assigned a big project. Plot out your study routine over the next few weeks until the due date. You won’t regret being ahead of the curve. 

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Creating a Culture of Mistakes

Mistakes are a big part of life and learning. Unfortunately, mistakes are also often connotated with failure or stupidity. Which is largely incorrect and simply horrifying for educators. When children make mistakes, especially during their formative years, these mistakes allow their brains to focus on what not to do. Or non-examples. Non-examples can be very powerful in learning for helping to establish a precedent and a baseline for development.

I remember the feeling I used to get as a student when I made mistakes. I was instantly de-motivated and lost the confidence to continue. This was likely due to the fact that I held myself to really high standards as a student, and truly still do. Mistakes were detrimental to me, not because they weren’t helping me learn, but because the culture surrounding mistakes was so negative. Changing that culture is necessary to shift the focus to self-efficacy and confidence. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Wrong

Like me, many students are afraid to be wrong or make a big mistake. Mistakes aren’t thought of as accidents, or bad things that simply happen to you. Mistakes are thought of as decisions that individuals make through their own autonomy that leads to negative consequences. Which, in turn, makes mistakes the individual’s fault. This is not true. 

Mistakes are caused when our brain fails to create fissures, or spark synapses. And this is not our fault. When we are learning, we take in so much information all at once that details can often fall through the cracks. This is nothing to fear. It just means you need to practice the concept more and correctly in order to spark those missing synapses. 

Mistakes Lead to Learning

Mistakes are key to your learning. Without them, we have little idea about what not to do. And as we learned above, non-examples are powerful learning tools. When you make a mistake, your brain corrects the behavior or knowledge and begins storing the correct information. This can be made more difficult the longer we have practiced incorrect behavior or knowledge. Which is why mistakes in school are so critical. Your teachers can pick up on your mistakes, teach you the proper application, and begin guiding you down a journey of re-entering the correct knowledge in your brain. AKA – Learning!

Mistakes Help Track Growth

Growth and development are what all students strive for. Whether that is in a specific subject or culturally and socially. All students are looking for some amount of learning to occur and to be able to track that learning over a period of time, like a school year or a school career. Mistakes help educators keep track of that growth through formative assessments that clear up any confusion about what content is being stored and what content is falling through the cracks. Therefore, when we make mistakes, we can see them clearly in our growth cycle in the form of wrong answers on tests or incorrect usage of literary devices in essays. We can then use that data to determine what we have learned and how long it took us to learn it. 

Tutors: Teachers not Technicians

When you take your car in for a tune-up, you can expect to drive into a garage, hand over your keys, go out for a latte and come back with your problems fixed. The mechanic will tell you what was wrong in your engine and what they did to fix it. You will then pay the appropriate fees and drive home feeling safe in your freshly tuned-up car.

Tutoring can sometimes be this way as well. You drop your child off, go out for a coffee and come back to pick them up hoping they have learned the information they need. In other words – that they have “fixed” their school problems.

I Can Fix It!

This is a common misconception. Tutors are not like mechanics who simply tell you what is wrong. Mechanics will tell you what the problem is. But instead of teaching you how to fix it, they generally just fix it for you. This is far from helpful.

A good tutor will know how to be a technician and look for leaks. But they will take their job a step further and explain how the leak happened, how it can be fixed, and guide you through the process for fixing it.

Tutors are not technicians – they are teachers.

Teaching: A Step Further

Teachers will make sure your child understands why they got the answer wrong by taking the necessary steps to correct their thinking. Unlike mechanics (or technicians), teachers give you the resources you need to continue to get the correct answer in the future and avoid breaking down on the side of the road feeling helpless. If every mechanic gave you replacement parts and taught you how to fix it yourself, every mechanic would likely go out of business.

Next time you look into tutoring for your student, make sure you have done the research into the facility. Make sure the tutors are there to teach and not to simply correct work. Talk to the tutor that will be working with your student. Learn about their teaching background, style and education.

After all, these people will be spending quality time with your kids helping them achieve their educational goals. So why not go the extra mile and ensure your kids are in good hands?