What Type of Tutoring Does Your Child Need?

Tutoring TypesIt’s September and school is in full swing. We’re (nearly) back to the morning drop offs and the afternoon clubs. And as the school year progresses, we’re also back to the nightly homework.

Cue the woes.

At some point in a student’s academic career, there will be a subject or a concept or a class that they will need a little help understanding. There’s no shame in asking for help.

But how do you, as the parent, know which kind of help will suit your child best?

Awhile back we talked about what to look for in a great tutor. Now, let’s explore the types of tutoring that are out there and which ones benefit which type of learner.

Teacher Tutoring

Getting extra homework help from your student’s teacher is always a great way to understand how the teacher (aka the test preparer and homework grader) conceptualized the assignment. Teacher Tutoring also helps build rapport. The problem is time. Coming in at lunch or recess or even after school is great for quick questions. When it comes to digging into the root of the concept, however, there just aren’t enough hours in the school day.

Peer to Peer Tutoring

I love having students work together and learn from each other. When you think about it, school is really a microcosm of our larger society. School is more than just academics; it’s also about social skills and friendships, learning to collaborate and work out differences appropriately. So when the opportunity presents itself, allowing students to teach each other helps team spirit, build confidence and character, practice empathy and patience, and discover a new side to themselves as mentor.

Group Tutoring

There are a lot of tutoring centers that employ the group tutoring methodology. As with Peer to Peer Tutoring, this process focuses on a small group setting (usually 3-5 students) but with a teacher at the helm. It’s usually student-led (ie: what are most people in the group challenged by?), which helps students learn to speak up — that all important self-advocacy piece of the puzzle — and defend their answers, thereby learning through the argument. Group tutoring is great for a self-starter student or one who may be struggling with a particular concept. It’s harder, though, for our quiet or more introverted kiddos who get a little anxious over having to voice their opinions in a group setting.

Online Tutoring

I’m not a fan of online tutoring. Even for the best student out there, there’s nothing that can replace having someone sit next to you for an ask and answer session. Human connection trumps technology every time.

1:1 Private Tutoring

Almost everyone can benefit from private tutoring. Building a strong mentor:mentee relationship is key to student success and with the right person sitting at the table, homework doesn’t become so daunting.

Private Tutoring is great for students who are struggling not just with the concept but study skills too. All those time management, organization, forward-planning skills (those executive function needs) are key building blocks to student success in and out of the classroom.

A good tutor recognizes that they are not just there to practice that algebraic equation or review grammar, but, rather to help the student learn to help themselves by building confidence, strong study habits, and problem-solving skills.

I’m so proud that I stumbled upon my calling as a tutor several years ago and so grateful that I’ve been able to sit side by side with students, helping them blossom into confident, young people who are learning to value learning from their teachers, their tutors, their parents, their friends and themselves.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Executive Director of Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services.

She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic Support, Behavior Management, Special Education Advocacy and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping struggling students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them in and out of the classroom.

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Defining Self & Success

SuccessAs it stands today, education is geared towards teaching our young students the importance of achieving success. How we define success can make or break our students self-worth. All too often, success is defined according to our culture and in today’s society, success means having money and power so that you can be in control of your own happiness.

My New Definition of Success

As a well-educated and self-proclaimed “definer” of my own success,  I too adhered to society’s definition. The typical Type A student, I found myself always trying to live up to and then exceed my own expectations, attempting to outdo my last triumph and climb the ladder towards the next goal that would reinvigorate my self-worth and value to others. But it seemed the ladder never ended and that if I chose to, I could climb forever.  Only recently, did I begin to question the definition of success I adopted as a child. Through age, experience, and honestly the fact that I was just so tired of my never-ending climb, I  began to realize that my definition of success hinged on control.

And then I realized that control was an illusion.

The fact is I have no control over anyone or anything, except my own behavior, choices and actions. That’s it. After the initial shock wore off, it was oddly reassuring to know that the weight of worrying about having enough money and power so that I could be happy one day had lifted. A new chapter had begun.

I no longer have to wait till I have enough to be happy, I can just be.

Collectively Learning Success Through Praise

Children learn to define success through praise. We were praised for taking our first step, eating our first solid food, and using the potty for the first time. Our basic definition of success revolved around our basic needs. As children grow, the adults in their lives praise them for different things, harder things like getting an A on a test. If you’re praised for getting an A, then achieving an A becomes part of your definition of success. And we, as a culture, unquestionably accept this definition.

But what if we began defining success less collectively and more individually?

At the core of education is understanding how we each learn differently. We’re all good at different things and we all struggle with different challenges. Yet, we are taught to define success in the same way.

The system of education is beginning to catch up with the notion of individualized learning, Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, and even brain-mapping. Most educators acknowledge the research but many cannot fathom how to teach 32 students in 32 different ways. Classroom practices will have to be redefined to accommodate this new definition of learning too.

Embrace Individualized Education Now

I’m afraid we cannot wait for the system to catch up with the student. It’ll be too late and another generation lost to the definition that an A means you’re worthy. The work of change must be done now.

It’s important that parents and teachers collaborate, looking at the whole child and honoring their strengths while redefining their challenges. How do we do this?  At home, you can begin to praise your child for achieving a B or even a C in that really hard subject. So your child’s strength is with words and not formulas. That’s okay. She will still be successful in her own right. At school, you can begin to praise your shy student for his thoughtful paper on the subject, even though he chose not to raise his hand to participate in the class discussion.

Redefine Your Expectations

I want to be clear: I am not saying to lower your expectations, but, rather, redefine them in accordance with your child’s individual strengths and challenges. Children want to please you; they will rise to the challenges you set for them. It’s our job, as parents and teachers, to make sure those challenges build upon each other in an attainable way.

Do we define a baby’s first fall as failure? No, we define it as learning. Expectation and failure go hand in hand. Some parents and educators shy away from exposing their students to failure at a young age for fear their child will think of themselves as a failure. Did the baby think of herself as a failure when she fell for the first time? Probably not because her parents reassured her that it would be okay. Then her parents helped their child up and she attempted to learn to walk again.

That’s exactly what we as parents and teachers should be doing with our students: redefining success and failure as, simply, learning.

The challenge is really within ourselves because until we can redefine our own successes and failures as learning, we cannot extend the same kindness towards our children. How we treat others is a reflection of how we see ourselves. That’s one lesson I continue to learn over and over again. Thankfully, that’s a lesson I’m ready to learn.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Executive Director of Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services.

She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping struggling students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them in and out of the classroom.

 

 

 

 

 

Hi, My Name is Consistency and I am Related to Success

ConsistencyIt’s no secret that anything done well is done consistently. If we want that beach-ready body we know we must consistently eat green things and go to that spinning class. If we want that A in a class we must consistently study and go above and beyond the norm. There is no shortcut to success.

Part of the reason students struggle in school is not because they aren’t working hard but because they aren’t working hard consistently

When students are young, teaching accountability falls on the parent. This is a challenging lesson, and one I find starts from the top down. Your children will not assign value to school unless you, as the parent, value it yourself

Children inherently want to meet their parent’s expectations. As we talked about in our recent post here, the best way to combat learned helplessness is by raising your expectations. For example, don’t be afraid to say no to hanging out with friends until homework is completed. Do this consistently and your kid will stop fighting you on finishing their homework. Yes, consistency even combats teenage attitude.

Putting systems and structure in place allows for consistency to take priority and ensures that everyone in the family is on the same page about school expectations, such as homework time. Check out some great, practical tips outlined in our previous discussion on how to “Eliminate the Homework Woes“.

You can still give your kids a beautiful childhood & teach them the value of hard work too

As an in-home service provider, parents often express concerns to me that it’s difficult to find a balance between teaching hard work while also trying to give their kids the best possible childhood. There is only a finite amount of time that we get to be carefree kids and the rest of life we must learn to be adults. My response: I agree, and that’s precisely why we should all be working together to instill the common underlying value of dedication to individual accomplishment during childhood, which stems from being consistent with our children. You can still give your kids a beautiful childhood and teach them the value of hard work at the same time.

As a culture, we need to slow down and enjoy the quiet moments more often. The days of over-scheduling are coming to an end.  The days of helicopter parenting should be on their way out the door too. We need to let kids learn first-hand the consequences of not putting their all into a project, a task, or a test. You wouldn’t prevent your child from learning how to walk by continuing to carry them around town until their 18th birthday, right? Of course not, that’s just absurd.

Sheltering them from the fear of “falling” is a disservice, and parents who prevent their child from experiencing the consequences of inaction are preventing them from experiencing the triumph of success.

So give your child the best possible chance in school and life by remaining consistent with your expectations. You’ll find that your child will rise to the occasion and even exceed the goals you set.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student by combining Academic, Behavior, and Advocacy support. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

Avoid Learned Helplessness by Increasing Your Expectations

Learned HelplessnessExpectations are a funny thing, aren’t they? If your expectations are too challenging, you may be disappointed. If your expectations are not challenging enough, you may become stagnant. Same goes for the expectations you have for your kid and subsequent behaviors your kid exhibits.

We can think of expectations as a mountain: each step up the steep hill signifies a new increased challenge. Not all mountains are the same and everyone climbs at their own pace. Most climbers have spotters, ensuring that if the climber falls, they will be there to catch them.

Parents: you are those spotters. You’re ready to catch your child when they fall. But you also need to be your child’s coach, setting the bar high for challenges and encouraging your child to reach their greatest potential.

Consistency is the Key to Successful Change

As a provider who works with children exhibiting various behavior concerns and academic needs, my first step is to establish appropriate expectation levels tailored specifically for the struggling student. The institution of expectations extends to the family home as well because we know that if we provide consistent expectations to kids who are struggling in school we must also provide consistent expectations within their home life too. This is wraparound support, and this is what we need more of.

Children are able to self-regulate in an environment with clear, outlined expectations and follow-through. Where there are not clear expectations, however, the child is unable to manage their own behaviors because they are unsure of where the boundaries are. Simply, the expectations are not clear.

Parents, Don’t be Scared of Failure

Sometimes parents are hesitant to implement what is perceived as challenging expectations because they are scared that their child will not live up to those expected outcomes. I hear things like, “Issac isn’t good at math but I wasn’t good at math, so that’s okay” or “She just doesn’t like to eat dinner with the family, so I let her eat dinner in front of the tv because I don’t want to cause an argument.” These expectations, and responding behaviors, are not okay.

I understand a parent’s resistance towards change. Oftentimes, parents feel that if the expectations are too high they will set their kids up for failure and, in turn, have failed as a parent themselves. Don’t be scared of failure, Parents. Failure serves to help us identify what we need to improve upon. It’s not a bad thing, as long as you work to resolve the challenge.

For this reason, I always encourage parents to look at the issue with fresh eyes by explaining and then modeling greater expectations for their child. If you increase your expectations, that means you truly believe your child will rise to the occasion. I believe this truth for my students, and set the bar high. Don’t you think you should too?

Avoid Teaching Your Child Learned Helplessness

If you don’t have challenging expectations, you’re essentially teaching your child the concept of learned helplessness:

Learned helplessness is the belief that our own behavior does not influence what happens next, that is, behavior does not control outcomes or results. For example, when a student believes that she is in charge of the outcome, she may think, “If I study hard for this test, I’ll get a good grade.” On the contrary, a learned helpless student thinks, “No matter how hard I study for this test, I’ll always get a bad grade.” ~ The Psycho-Educational Teacher (Special Education) via Edutopia.org

The Standard You Set Will Be the Standard Your Child Attempts

The way we perceive our own abilities really does affect our success, and it starts with setting appropriate but challenging expectations for your child. Like anything we need balance, but if you think the task is too hard for your child to achieve, then it will be. The standard you set as a parent, will be the standard your child attempts to achieve.

Remember, your kids adore you. They love you. They want to meet the standards you set for them. They want to climb to the top of the mountain and see that well-deserved, amazing view. Let’s give them a chance to do so by expecting more and raising the bar for individual success.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student by combining Academic, Behavior, and Advocacy support. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

The World is HAPPY!

The world has gone crazy for happiness lately, thanks to singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams and his latest colorful tune: HAPPY! Check out the World’s answer to his Happy song

The power of positivity and positive thinking starts with the ability to be your authentic, silly, dancin’ selves. When we are our authentic selves, we are able to look at the world through a different lens– a humbled perspective laden with empathy rather than sympathy.

I’ve recently taken on the #100 Happy Days challenge, where each day I post a picture of what makes me happy. This exercise is intended to help change my perspective– to look at the world through a different lens– a grateful lens. Gratefulness helps us appreciate the important things we often deem as small.

The most important thing I’ve discovered throughout these beginning stages of my own happiness project is the all-powerful concept of Time. It is becoming more apparent everyday that I value my time more than any other commodity. Time is beginning to be the driving force behind my decisions and I find myself constantly evaluating the who, the what, the where, the when, and the why of projects, clients, meetings, reports, friends, and family to answer one question: Is this how I want to spend my time today?

Your happy is the foundation of who you are and what you project to the outside world.

How do you help your kids find their happy? Well, before we can help our children, we must help ourselves. It’s a top-down model. If you parent your child as a happy parent, your children will model your behavior and vice-versa. Parents set the tone for their kids and their family dynamic as a whole, and these memories last a lifetime.

To know this is true, all you have to do is to think back to your own memories as a child: Were your parents able to model happiness for you? If yes, then you have strong foundation in what happiness looks like. If no, then it will be a bit more difficult to discern what happiness is.

Happiness is the popular term for contentment, and true contentment comes from within. It cannot be bought but rather realized. Some people think it’s unattainable and it is our entire life’s work to attempt to reach enlightenment. Most would agree contentment is a choice. We choose in that moment to view the difficult situation through a grateful lens. We acknowledge the emotion instead of pushing it down and waiting for it to explode later on. We humble ourselves, viewing failure as a forward-motion for change instead of defeat.

Children are a reflection of their parents. You can model contentment for your child just by learning to be content with yourself. To get started, I encourage you to try your own #100HappyDays Project and help your kids learn the art of contentment too.

The SuperBetter Game — Another gratefulness exercise that can add 10 extra years to your life.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder of Terry Tutors and Creator of the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

We Need A Home-First Approach

home first“Emily” is not from a broken home. She is not an abused child and has never suffered the loss of a parent. She’s a smart kid and has the IQ test to prove it, but she’s failing out of school. Her anger turned to apathy a couple of years ago when she realized how little work she actually had to do and still get passed along to the next grade. Now, almost done with high school she shows an inkling of interest in graduating but getting her to the diploma stage is going to take some serious work. Why did this happen? And why didn’t anyone catch it before it was almost too late?

The goal for my Struggling Students: To understand each area of their life because it has been proven, time and time again, that failing academics are really just a symptom that something else is wrong. No kid would willingly fail English if it wasn’t a cry for help. Naturally, the conversation turns to home life, as this is such a huge piece of the puzzle. Yet so many providers do not want to get their hands too dirty and, in fact, are prohibited from becoming too attached to the family. Yes, you must have boundaries. But no, you cannot fix an academic problem by simply addressing what goes in the classroom.

I get it. I really do. Serving the family is really, really hard! That’s precisely why I opted to attend law school instead of pursuing grad school and even avoided Family Law like the plague. Families are messy. But I couldn’t avoid it forever, especially in my line of work. As I’ve learned over the years, we cannot be afraid to get our hands dirty because that’s really the only way we can all come together to help that kid– to help an Emily.

When a child goes into the foster care system, they have a team of support care professionals assigned to their case who come together periodically and form what is affectionately known as a Wraparound service. It’s like a giant hug from all those who care about this kid: Therapists, Social Workers, Doctors, Lawyers, Foster Parents, and sometimes Teachers, CASA Volunteers (Court Appointed Special Advocates), and Guardian Ad Litems. This Wraparound model brings together an interdisciplinary approach to serve “the best interest of the child”. That got me thinking: Shouldn’t all of our child-centered services be of the wraparound nature?

Emily’s story is more common than you might think. There would have been countless Parent-Teacher Conferences, phone calls home, e-mails with the Principal Cc’d and Bcc’d, Student Success Team (SST) Meetings, and maybe a Request for a Referral for an Evaluation and followup Psycho-Educational Assessment to look for any special education needs or a polite suggestion to look into other local schools. It would be unlikely, however, any one of those administrators, teachers, or therapists would have walked into Emily’s home and had a coffee and chat with her parents at the dining room table. If they had they would have seen a couple divided on parenting styles (permissive v disciplinarian), a family without a clear set of expectations for their children (associated learned helplessness), or overworked parents who were so stressed about financially providing for their kids they forgot to build in time to spend with them.

All roads lead back home. Once we acknowledge that, we can build our services with a home-first approach.We can help parents learn how to reconnect with their kids, we can build community to let them know they are not alone,  and we can provide support by looking first at what’s going on inside those four walls.  Yes, as the parent the onus is on you. But do not feel as if you are alone on this journey. The more you acknowledge you need a little help, the more guidance others can provide without being afraid to get their hands dirty in those family dynamics.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder of Terry Tutors and Creator of the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

The Reasonable Choices Method

choicesI have these friends who are really excellent parents. To observe them is to learn. One of the methods they use with their young children is what I like to call The Reasonable Choices Method, a simple idea but one that requires a lot of internal patience even when things are just pure chaos around you. As a prerequisite you must be on your way to mastering the 3C’s in a parenting crisis: Calm, Cool, and Collected.

Here’s how it’s done: Two-year-old Ben is playing with his toys in the playroom and you notice it’s now 7:00 pm, thirty-minutes before bedtime, and you still need to give him a bath to wash off the sand from all of his sandbox adventures today, his sidewalk chalk mishaps, and the milk that spilled when he attempted to grab the cup from the counter but sadly missed. You give Ben a heads up that it will be time to take a bath in 5 minutes and you set the timer for 5 minutes, making sure to show him (as evidence) on your phone, kitchen timer, or even those little sand timers found in a board game. When there’s one minute left of playtime you give him a courtesy warning. By giving him this courtesy warning you’re really allowing him to prepare himself to switch tasks. Remember that a toddler’s brain is developing the ability to process information at a faster rate and creating those memory synapses so he needs a little more time to prepare himself to do something else. Emotionally, he’s also learning to assert his independence and this is a good thing. However, it’s still important to rein it in, molding his ability to make decisions within the confines of safe parameter.

When the timer has gone off you announce again that it’s time to clean-up and take a bath. If Ben is like most two-year-olds he will resist, explaining that he needs more time because he’s not finished playing. If you really think about his argument it is easy to understand. We all run behind at times: finishing a paper at the last-minute, remembering a birthday card on the way to the party, not realizing that dinner will take a little longer tonight because we’re trying a new dish. Although his request for more time is understandable toddlers are notorious for saying one thing and doing another. Remember that this is not a negotiation, this is a teaching moment–an example of how you are helping him learn to sustain a commitment and begin to make the right decisions. An assertive yet loving response should outline the fact that you understand his wants but you have given him a specific set of tasks to complete for the next part of the evening: “I understand that you want more time to finish playing but the timer has gone off and it is now time to clean-up, go upstairs, and take a bath”. It is likely he will still resist and so at this moment, while you’re helping to clean-up, you say to him, “Ben you may walk upstairs yourself or I can carry you upstairs. Which do you prefer?” Here it is: a Reasonable Choice–one where each option is something you can live with, gets the next task going, but allows him a way to begin to assert his independence.

If he says, “I need more time” calmly explain that he already had 5 minutes to prepare himself to take a bath and that you will make the choice for him if he is unable to make it himself. Then, follow through! I cannot stress enough that this the step I coach families most on. No doubt it is the most difficult step and I feel for you because when your child is on the floor having a tantrum it is heart-wrenching and frustrating at the same time. Use those 3C’s and realize the psychology of what is happening here: Ben is wrestling to understand his own ability to make the right decision. Your job is to help him understand why it is important and assure him that by trusting you, his parent, it will bring about the best decision possible.

The key is to employ your 3C’s, be consistent, and follow-through. Don’t beat yourself up if you get it wrong the first few times. Just keep trying! You are helping your child build character and learn to make the right choice, a skill that he will use for the rest of his life.

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