Monday, September 29, 2014

Organizational Tutoring: A Sound Investment in Your Student's Future by Mikey Smith, M.Ed

Organizational Tutoring:
A Sound Investment in Your Student's Future
by Mikey Smith, M.Ed

"So, how was school today?" Remember when your student was younger, and he or she would respond to this question with breathless excitement, regaling you with every detail of every day, from who got in trouble (never your child, of course!) to what was for lunch? Even if your student skipped important details like spelling tests or field trip forms, you more than likely had a backup - the weekly homework folder and/or the trusty planner. Early elementary teachers spend great amounts of time writing copious notes in students' planners, stuffing homework folders, and making sure students remember assignments and events.

Ask the parents of an older student about what sort of response they typically get when asking their child about their school day, and you most likely will get an answer along the lines of, "I have no idea - they don't ever tell me anything about it!" Couple this with the shift in responsibility for remembering homework and assignments and copying information into a student planner from teacher to student, and you might have a recipe for disaster.

It's not that teachers of older students don't WANT their students to succeed or are less concerned about parent communication; to the contrary, many upper-elementary, middle and high school teachers use more sophisticated methods such as websites, blogs, wikis and weekly email blasts for publicizing events because they simply don't have the time to customize communications. While most lower elementary school teachers typically have only one class of students to keep track of during any given year, upper elementary, middle and high school teachers can have upwards of 150 students per semester in a content area class, plus 30 or so more in an elective. It's just not possible for teachers to personally monitor every student's planner usage, organizational skills, and homework habits. Additionally, students at this level are expected to take more responsibility for their own learning in order to prepare them for 'the real world.'

But what do you do if you don't have that student who loves to color code his or her student planner? What if your student struggles with organizational skills or doesn't feel comfortable talking to teachers one-on-one? Or, what if your student happens to have ADHD or some other condition that makes focusing problematic? Are you supposed to resign yourself to spending the next 5 or so years fighting your student on a daily basis?

Fortunately, the answer to that question can be NO, especially if you hire an organizational tutor. Although many people think of a tutor as someone who helps with math or English class, a tutor can also help your student learn to navigate the oftentimes stressful and confusing world of middle and high school. A skilled organizational tutor can help even the most disorganized and disheveled student by teaching him organizational strategies, study skills, and positive communication techniques. The right tutor can help bring harmony back to your home front.

Parent Marisa Anderson* knows this firsthand. Her son is in high school now, but has worked with the same organizational tutor since middle school. She says her organizationally-challenged student struggled to stay afloat in middle school until he met a tutor he clicked with, and she couldn't be more pleased with the results. "His tutor helps him to organize his time and work. She's an advocate for him, and she keeps his father and I from having to be hounding him constantly," Anderson says. "I can't say enough good things."

While tutors can make huge changes over the course of a student's career, some parents also note that with the right match, a tutor can have a positive impact right away. Marilyn Wilson's* sixth grader struggled mightily when she entered a large, competitive middle school. "She wasn't struggling with the curriculum," Wilson said. Instead, it was juggling teachers, classes, and activities that was causing problems. "I got tired of pestering and bugging her," Wilson says, and on the recommendation of another parent, decided to give organizational tutoring a try. Although her student has only been working with her tutor for a short time, Wilson says that she has started to 'figure it out,' and that clear progress has already been made. "This seems to be a smart investment on our part," she says, "We have been happy so far."

In addition to helping students stay on top of assignments and homework, organizational tutors can also work with each student's teachers personally in order to determine how to best help students succeed. Tutors who have worked as teachers are familiar with how teachers and schools work, and can advocate for students. An organizational tutor can also be another cheerleader for a student - an additional person who can help boost a student's self-esteem, which often suffers when students are unsuccessful in school.

An organizational tutor for your student is a solid investment in your child's future. While a tutor can certainly help a student survive a semester or a school year, he or she can also help to develop skills that last a lifetime, such as how to leverage communication and learning styles to attain success in both school and life. Parent Marisa Anderson certainly agrees in the value of such an investment! Her student will be graduating from high school soon, and she jokes that she is hoping his tutor will accompany him to college. "She helped him with everything from a to z, and has brought him so far," she says. "It has really worked out."
*All names changed to protect the privacy of students & their families.

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