not) and teachers who tutor on the side, mainly through word-of-mouth. One-on-one tutoring, though more expensive, is useful with certain learning disabilities and for students who do well with adaptive learning tech-niques, “where the tutor responds immediately to student needs, tailoring the learning experience appropriately,” said Mokris. Centers usually offer a group learning approach. Students work at their own pace and independently at least part of the time. When able to complete an exercise on their own, they “can finish with a unique sense of accomplishment that only comes from doing it yourself” Mokris said.
Q: How can you help my child?
“Every child’s tutoring needs are different,” said Peter Bartoli, director of Sylvan Learning of Southbury, one of seven Sylvan centers in Connecticut. There, an assessment test pinpoints strengths and needs. “Figuring out what a child knows and doesn’t know about a particular topic helps Sylvan create the most effective tutoring plan with clear goals and objectives,” Bartoli said.Mokris advises approaching a potential service with information from your child’s teacher on “what exactly is happening, and whether it’s hap-pening with one subject or more, with one test or more.” At Tutoring Club, with locations in Ridgefield and Stamford, after an initial discussion with the parent and testing, an individualized plan that works for the family gets created, said Maria Markus, owner of both locations. And at Wise Learning, the approach is to fig-ure out how a child learns, “fill in the foundation holes that have developed and custom design a set of skills and strategies based on learned style and personality for a lifetime of learning success,” said Isenberg. The plans also address “executive func-tion” skills such as time management and note-taking that may not be taught in schools. In terms of outcomes, Stewart cautioned, beware of “tutors who make grand predictions of miraculous score increases or grade improve-ments.” Choose instead someone with a successful track record who does not over-promise.The tutor should be able to show measurable — that is, quantifiable — results, added Mokris.
Q: What kind of time commitment must we make?
The answer will depend on the program, Bartoli said of Sylvan’s approach. In Markus’s experience, twice a week is the minimum needed. “I know that families are very busy nowadays, and kids have a lot going on after school. However, the students need to get the message from their parents that education is a first priority,” she said. Avoid places that insist on an up-front commit-ment of several hours of tutoring or more, Stewart said. At least one session with no further financial commitment, to make sure the child and tutor click, is a good idea.
Q: How will I know when progress is made?
Check in regularly with teachers at school to see how new skills are crossing over into the class-room, Bartoli said. Because Sylvan students work through their lessons on iPads, parents can access progress on an online portal. Children can also be encouraged to share how they feel they’re doing in school and at tutoring. Many tutors will want to have regular commu-nication with teachers about progress both inside and outside the classroom.
Q: How can I support my child at home?
Don’t underestimate the power of positive reinforcement. Applaud your child’s efforts and accomplishments as you’re informed of tutoring successes, celebrating improvements in a special way, Bartoli said. Also remark how the tutoring is really helping in mastering new skills.Encourage believing they can overcome obsta-cles and learn something new, even when it’s a challenge, Mokris said. “Don’t ever underestimate the value of inspiring children toward a goal and working toward it with them.”
Melissa Ezarik is a Stratford-based writer and managing editor of a national education magazine.
July 31, 2014
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