Some of the suggestions in this post will seem elementary, but trust me, they need to be addressed. A few students show up with nothing, not even a pencil. I immediately question their commitment. I’m willing to invest time and energy in my students, but they must meet me halfway. When I have more invested in my student’s grade than they do, the sessions can be painful for both us.
Attempt every assignment. Homework can be a tedious chore. However, you cannot succeed without practice. Repetition helps students memorize formulas, master processes, and improve basic math facts. It is impossible to prepare for a test when they haven’t completed any of their homework. At this point, the student is hopelessly behind, and I cannot teach an entire unit the night before a test. The most important responsibility for a student is homework, even if the teacher doesn’t collect it for a grade.
Know what you want to work on. On average, I meet with my students once a week, sometimes less. During the intervening week, their class can cover a large amount of material. It isn’t feasible to cover everything from the previous week in one session, at least not in any great detail. Students should maintain a list between sessions identifying problems or topics they found challenging. This way students are in control of their session, and they feel more invested in the process. In addition, we don’t waste time on easier topics. We only have an hour together, so make the most of it.
Be prepared for the session. Each student, at a minimum, should have pencil and paper. I’m happy to provide supplies every now and again, but not every session. (Side note to parents. Assume that if your kid takes nothing with them for tutoring, then they probably walk out without learning anything. They aren’t taking it seriously, and you’re wasting money on an exercise in futility.) Make sure you have the calculator you will use on tests charged and ready to use during the session. Some topics require more advanced computations or programming, and I prefer teaching these steps on the student’s own calculator. Know your login information for any web supported class features (eclass, schoology, etc). Try to get plenty of rest. High school kids start class very early, and their sessions come at the end of an already long day. Bring a snack, or something to drink to help you stay awake.
Check progress often. There is a temptation with high school kids to pull back and hand responsibility solely to them. They’re starting to look like adults, so we expect them to behave like adults. Their brains aren’t always up to the task, and they need help from us to stay on track. There’s a wonderful book about this issue, The Teenage Brain, by Frances Jensen, a neuroscientist who looks at how the teenage brain functions differently from adults. (I plan to do a post on some of her findings.) Most schools give parents access to their child’s grades. Make it a habit to check progress every few days.
Engage with your child. It’s not enough just to check their grades. Follow up with them, so they know you’re checking their progress regularly. My son quickly learned that I go through the roof if I see an NTI (not turned in) on his class portal. So he checks his own grades more often, and when I point out NTIs, he’s already in the process of addressing them. It takes some of the bluster out of my rants. Ask them what they learned during tutoring, and if they have any additional or follow-up homework for the night. Encourage, or harass, them into doing their homework every day.
Address concerns. Get in contact with me as soon as possible with any concerns about the progress of your student. Let me know if something major is going on with them. The same applies to their teachers. If you aren’t sure why they’re failing all their tests and doing well on quizzes, then reach out to their teacher and ask. If you don’t like the answer you receive, then contact the head of the department or the counselling department, be a pest if you have to. You are your child’s best advocate.
Next Week: The importance of math facts.