Imagine thinking that the purpose of going to the grocery store is to get Monopoly stickers. You know that certain products come with extra stickers, so you run around the store throwing as many of these as you can into your cart. You spend hundreds of dollars and walk away, twirling your fancy mustache as you tuck a nice fat stack of 30 stickers into your top hat.
But you didn’t get the milk. You didn’t get the dishwasher soap. You didn’t get anything that mattered.
It’s possible to approach tutoring in exactly this way, winning something good but non-essential, while missing out on the real substance of the process.
Even though getting a grade improvement is often the motivating goal for tutoring, for the sake of a student’s long-term success, tutoring should always aim beyond the immediate need.
. . . for the sake of a student’s long-term success, tutoring should always aim beyond the immediate need. -Amos J. Hunt
The pressure to make the grade at all costs is understandable, but “tutoring to the test” makes students dependent on their tutors and ultimately not prepared for the rigor of college. In the long run, this approach to tutoring introduces a passive approach to life and may lead students to shy away from opportunities that demand growth.
Do you hear your child saying, “I don’t know what I would do without them,” when talking about a tutor? Maybe this is just a hyperbolic expression of gratitude, but it might indicate the creation of a codependent relationship, in which the student cannot thrive if the tutor is removed.
Does your child use tutoring as a first line of attack on their work, before even trying to do it themselves? While this approach may result in a good grade on the test, it will not give the student the intellectual courage needed to face the challenges of college or the unpredictable problems of life.
Encourage students to come to sessions having already made an earnest effort, working alone and with peers, consulting textbooks, and online resources. A student who comes with specific questions and problems can make the most of their tutor’s expertise. The tutor, in turn, should not only be ready to answer questions but also spend time helping the student better use their own academic equipment.
A tutor who prioritizes the student’s independence will encourage them to see the tutor as a resource, rather than a foundation or support system. They should not only be a master of the material but also help the student begin to see themselves as a master in training.
Tutoring doesn’t have to be a crutch. Parents can demand that tutors set a high standard for their students, challenge them to take responsibility, and provide tools for growing self-reliance. A tutoring service with a broad coaching element can give students the crucial life skills of self-management, initiative, planning, and perseverance. Ask tutors how their service addresses these needs, so that in the end, your child’s academic credentials will mean more than Monopoly money.
Amos J. Hunt is the owner and lead tutor of The Tutoring Place in Preston Center.