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.

 

 

 

 

 

A Smart Person Knows What to Say, A Wise Person Knows Whether or Not to Say It

Learned this lessonI just took a personality quiz… another one. (I love those things.) It says that I hold the distinguished personality type of “Director”: decisive, focused, analytical, logical, competitive, self-disciplined, independent, and direct. That’s pretty spot on; I generally embody those attributes. However, as a provider who works with families I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) to shift the directorial duties to that of the parent. My goals now involve helping the parent, help their child. It wasn’t always this way.

See 10 years ago I would have debated you to the death, but time has softened my soul and experience has given me a swift kick until I learned that a smart person knows what to say but a wise person knows whether or not to say it. On some choice days, I learn that lesson all over again.

Providers will tell you that working with families is one of the toughest positions you can put yourself in because there is so much emotion and differing viewpoints that it can often lead to a knock down, drag out bull-fight over who is right and who is right-er. As a provider, I have objectivity on my side but I know the Parent has the power. So what’s a provider to do?

The Director in me is able to make confident and really great recommendations based on sound advice, experience, and know-how. I’m able to write it all down and package it in a pretty binder. I’m able to sit and talk to parents for hours about their rights, their choices, and what path I would choose. When it comes down to it, though, I know must defer to the Parent because they know what’s best for their child, even if I disagree. It’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when my gut tells me that a kid on my caseload would benefit from getting help in Speech, OT, and Resource but the parent is just not ready to move forward.

I used to see this as defeat, but now I see this as a sign that things beyond my control are in play. I remind myself that no one knows the future and perhaps the wheels are in motion for something different, something better for this kid. Whatever the ultimate outcome, I’ve learned to listen first, recommend second, and take on the role of Assisting the Director-Parent on their journey to come to terms with and provide for their child’s challenges.

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

 

Pursuing Your Passion When Your Parents Say “No”?

The pursuit of passion in career is often a hard-fought battle between the “have-to’s” and the “want-to’s”, with the “have-to’s” usually winning by a large margin. As a Family Coach, I often witness this battle on the front lines. It’s the classic case of the child who doesn’t like school but is an amazing artist, dancer, musician, actor, singer, or even a young and talented filmmaker. Yes, he may be failing English but his doodles may one day be considered Dali’s, with the right guidance of course. Parents want to see their children succeed in all areas of life but the reality is that kids, and parents too, are not meant to be successful in everything they try. We all bring to the table a personality ingrained at birth coupled with natural, raw talents that are nurtured (or not) through our environmental influences. The Multiple Intelligences Theory agrees that we are naturally gifted learners in a few choice areas with various learning styles to boot! But we have a major conflict in our current schools: one of conformity and compliance over the creative arts. Which begs the question: when you have a child with a strong inclination for the creative do you nurture them to conform instead?

If the answer is yes, you may risk pushing your kid into a career and thus a life plan that is not fully satisfying. If the answer is no, you may risk having them fail English. Like most things, we need a balance of the two but instead I often see frustrated parents giving ultimatums, negating choice all together. When this happens resentment rears its ugly head, often creating long-term scars of depleted confidence and a defeatist outlook. Instead, I coach my families to try to suss out the real reason their child is failing English and how we can incorporate his love of art with his need to learn allegories. Nothing is a perfect compromise but as long as parents are listening (really listening) and kids are talking (honestly and without attitude) the lines of communication remain open– ready for whatever the future has in store. Maybe even something magnificently out of the ordinary.

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Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

A Family Contract

contractA contract is a mutual agreement between two parties consisting of an offer, acceptance, and consideration, memorialized in writing and signed to signify competence and adherence to the agreed upon terms. In Human Speak, it’s a piece of paper that says you get this, if I get that.

The point of a contract is to govern each of the parties wants and needs in order to move forward with the actual service or trade. This same principle applies to families, especially those with teenagers. Parents want to keep their teenagers close, protecting them from the harm of the outside world so they can hold onto their childhood just a tiny, bit longer. Teenagers want to “spread their wings” and are excited about inching closer towards complete independence. Thus, the conflict arises.

One such conflict arose during a recent Tutoring session with a new client. See, clients often call me for Tutoring but I quickly realize there is more than just an academic concern that’s creating the conflict. In fact, 80% or more of the time there is underlying conflict between the student and the parent or the student and the teacher, which is contributing the academic problem. So, we must address those relationships first before any book learnin’ can get done! And we did exactly that just the other week. The Parent, Teenager, and myself had a Family Meeting and hammered out the details of what each party wanted. It was cathartic, productive, and most of all sustainable.

The Family Meeting session looked like this:

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Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

Talkin’ It Out

TherapyTalk Therapy has gotten a bad rep ever since its Freudian days, but I’m a huge proponent of Therapy in all of its forms (ie: art, dance, music, play, group, home-based, and original couch-sitting). I’ve even undergone it myself because– let’s be honest–where else can you talk about yourself for an hour, right?!

As I work with more and more families, I’m finding this interesting trend: parents will openly allow their kids to go to therapy but they won’t see a counselor themselves.  I’ve wondered if this is reflective of our old school versus new school way of thinking about “talking about your problems to a stranger” but then it was pointed out to me by my sister– the Speech Pathologist–that what may really be going on is that parents are hesitant to start sessions for themselves because they believe that every thing their child does (whether appropriate, inappropriate, negative, or positive) is a personal reflection on them. Okay, perhaps mainstream society agrees with that hypothesis but the other side of the coin says that a child’s personality is determined at birth. So although environmental stimuli, norms, and cues will contribute to an increase or decrease in certain characteristics, a person’s underlying personality– that unique x factor that makes us, us–is already ingrained.

Albeit fascinating from a research perspective, on an everyday level parents don’t always have the support they need from one another, their community, or sometimes even their own family members to assess that prospect. Instead, parents oftentimes feel that everything they do is not good enough, especially when a child is having some real struggles. In that case, it’s good to have a neutral third-party, an objective point of view, to talk about the parent’s own concerns and receive guidance and reassurance. When I help parents navigate the IEP process, for example, I always let them know that this process will not only help them learn how to advocate for their child but for themselves. It’s a lengthy process but as the months go by I begin to see Moms and Dads take charge, become more assertive, and willingly stand up for their own rights as a parent of child in need. When those skills are realized, the denial goes away. It’s an amazing transformation.

I love helping families navigate a problem and figure out a viable, self-sustaining solution. This is what therapy, coaching, and talking to a trusted member in your community can do too. A skilled counselor, psychologist,  therapist, or trusted advisor can guide you through a difficult life moment and help you reveal solutions that perhaps you were unable to see due to that murky inhibition. It has to be your choice, but I can promise you it can be a good, eye-opening, positive (and not too scary) experience.

Check out our Family Meeting service, creative outlets that build a child’s self-esteem and confidence, and vetted child, family, and individual therapists and psychologists:

FAMILY COACHING

Terry Tutors: Helping You Open the Lines of Family Communication. Communication is the Foundation of a Strong Family Bond. Our In-Home Family Meeting Service is designed to allow each member of the family to be heard in a positive, productive manner.  With the help of a Family Coach, we teach you how to actively listen to each other and incorporate family rules, family schedules, and age-appropriate communication tools, such as The Feelings Wheel and The Thought Box, to jump start conversation on a daily basis.

CREATIVE OUTLETS

  • 1STAGE Repertory: Nonprofit theatre company whose mission is to immerse children in the arts while building their self-esteem and having fun!
  • Center Stage Dance LA: Dance Studio dedicated to helping children develop success, confidence, and self-esteem
  • Malibu Art Barn: Open art studio,  aiding in the emotional and cognitive development of children. Owned by Peter Tulaney, MFT
  • Ovation Group Productions: Children’s Musical Theatre Company, where differences are celebrated and everyone gets a real part!

FAMILY, CHILD, COUPLE & INDIVIDUAL THERAPY SERVICES

PARENT CLASSES & TRAINING

ASSESSMENTS

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Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

Collaborative Education: Let’s Get Our Act Together

working-together-in-progress-mdHold onto your hats parents, teachers, lawyers, support service professionals, and administrators cause I’m about to say something that will rock the education world as you know it: WE MUST ALL START WORKING TOGETHER NOW. It’s time to take a timeout from the sparring emails and nasty litigation to really think about the fact that our inability to communicate and get along with one another has a long-lasting and detrimental effect on the kids we are paid to help.

Steve Lopez, LA Times Writer, recently wrote an entire piece on this topic, highlighting LAUSD leaders and their failure to get along with one another. (Read his article here) Collaborative Education is not just a utopian ideal. It can happen. Look, if the US Government can get along with Iran (as reported here) I think we adults can get our act together at the round-table discussion about our students.

I know all of you truly believe that your primary focus is the kids but do your actions say that too?

To the Administrators buried in paperwork, always having to think of the bottom line: Step into a classroom on  a regular basis and remind yourself why you got into education in the first place. You could have chosen any career to use your talents but you gravitated towards education because you want to help others and make a real change. Remind yourself that it’s not all about dolling out the dollars. If that means taking a stand that is unfavorable in the eyes of the school board but will ultimately help your students then weigh that consequence. It might be worth it to take the heat if you can make a long-lasting change for the better.

To the Teachers who believe some things are above your pay grade: We know this country fails its teachers when it comes to earnings and you cannot live on happy thoughts and good deeds alone. However, when you demonstrate a lack of willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, it reflects poorly on you and the teaching community as a whole. If you’ve lost your edge and think it’s time to move on, then do. Why spend your days unhappy with the status quo? Find something else you love but don’t continue to teach the next generation that doing a job halfheartedly is acceptable.

To the Lawyers and Advocates who come stomping into the IEP Meetings demanding change: Take off your litigious-hat and put on your reasonable-cap. The crux of the law is reasonableness and although there are some educational atrocities happening that do need litigation, most of the roundtable in an IEP Meeting is comprised of those who are trying to provide the best service possible in the best way they know how. Don’t scare them. Help them. Help them so they can help the family that you’re serving.  That’s why you were hired. The legal profession has suffered enough name-calling, don’t ya think. Put your degrees to work as a leader for collaboration and change.

To the Support Service Professionals who have an overwhelming caseload: There are not enough SLPs, OTs, Ed Therapists, or School Psychologists. We know this and yet we continue to add more and more students to your caseload. This fact, however, does not mean that you get a free pass when it comes to adhering to the minutes allotted in the IEP for services. If there are not enough hours in the day, then you need to stand up for yourself and the students you’re serving to let your bosses know. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others who can help too. There are aides and other support staff that you may be able to call upon and train to help you with the less intensive needs of a student. People want to feel needed. So use that principle to your advantage.

To the Students: If you’re old enough to read this, you’re old enough to advocate for your own education. These meetings are supposed to be all about helping you. If something is not working or you have an idea that you think is better- speak up! Make your voice heard. Don’t let the adults sit at that roundtable and drum up countless goals that you have to meet if those just aren’t working for you. Say something! School is supposed to be a gateway to a better, brighter future. We need your input to help you open that door to success.

To the Parents: You have the hardest job of all. Not only did you have to decide what type of diapers, brand of food, and particular toys to buy all before your child went to Pre-K but you now have to decide what their schooling should look like too. You are the best advocate your child has and as such you owe it to your kid to be present at those Parent/Teacher Conferences and IEP Meetings. Don’t sign a waiver and then complain that your child isn’t getting a good education. If you’re feeling overwhelmed then turn to outside resources for help. There are a ton of good people out there who want to help you and your child. Ultimately, though, you are the President and We are your Cabinet. We need you to be an involved parent by becoming an active member in the PTA, staying on top of the homework situation, and making an effort to have a good rapport with your child’s teachers. Without you, we’re left in the conference room with a bunch a goals that may work only part of the time. We need you to help make them work not only in the classroom but at home too.

I know in our heart of hearts all of us chose our career paths in education because we truly and deeply love education; we love the doors it can open, what it can build, the hope it provides, and the lives it changes. All the degrees in the world and extra letters after your name, however, can’t hold a candle to the simple act of empathy. It is this ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes that opens the lines of communication and begins the listening process, one where each member of the team has a valued opinion that is heard and thoughtfully considered. When I speak to parents, this is often what they feel is missing in those meetings. When empathy is a top priority, however, you can feel a shift in the room. Your ability to actively listen to those sitting next to you will be heard louder than all of the finger-pointing in the world. So let’s get our act together, people. Our kids deserve better from us.

Resources that make collaboration a priority:

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Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

Raising American Children with a European Lifestyle– Can It Be Done?

us-v-euAmericans are often negatively labeled as workaholics. Some of us see this as a positive though– we are the Little Engines That Could… chugging along, working longer and harder than anyone else to get to the top and prove to ourselves and the world that we can succeed. That’s the premise of the American Dream: a small potatoes person can come to this great country, work like a dog, and become a success story. I, too, adhere to this rationale so I found myself taking offense when a parent explained that he wanted to raise his American children with a European-type lifestyle. It sounds great in theory but in reality can you really live a European lifestyle within the confines of American culture?

This parent’s rationale was predicated upon the fact that Europeans have a greater well-balanced life: they take siestas; they have a shorter work week and longer vacation time; they value good food, good company, and good conversation; they relax! In general, Americans struggle with finding balance and contentment in the little things.  We define ourselves by our jobs. In Europe, they define themselves by their interests. Europeans are taught at a young age to appreciate the small moments in life, whereas American children are taught at a young age to attempt to do everything to the best of their ability, which can create mini stress-filled versions of their parents. In general, family comes first in Europe and second in America.

Knowing the above, I, too, would naturally lean towards adopting a European relaxed mentality except for one important fact– I live in America. As such, the external factors and influences of school, friends, and culture hold greater weight in the debate. After the age of four there are no siestas built into our days, our 40+ hour work-week and two-week vacation time is the norm, and a two-parent income lends itself to less time with family and more time at work.

Essentially, America’s cultural attitudes permeate our family dynamic and trickle down to how our children are raised, whether we like it or not. Like European culture, our culture, too, defines who we are as a community, as a nation. We can and should bring our various viewpoints to the dinner table, teaching our children about other cultures, religions, and beliefs. Until we collectively create an American cultural shift, however, our children must acclimate (somewhat) to the lifestyle choices around them in order to remain socially conscious. We could stand to adopt some European attributes though, such as instilling more of a work-life balance and teaching our kids to savor the finite moments of good food, good friends, and good conversation. That, as well as a nation-wide month-long vacation, is a cultural shift I’d like to see more of too.

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Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com