As an elementary student, I excelled in my studies. I was in the gifted program and earned straight A’s, but I always had to work hard at math. When I entered grade 9 math class; suddenly, nothing made sense. The teacher’s teaching style and my learning style didn’t align and my requests for the teacher’s help were met with the response of, “I don’t know why you don’t understand this.” I was quickly falling behind. 8 weeks into the semester I was failing the course with 37%. I had never been in the position of potentially failing a course before and I felt like a failure.
My confidence was at an all time low. My parents recognized how much I was struggling and arranged for a tutor. Mr. Powell was a retired math teacher and we met every Tuesday and Thursday after school for the rest of the semester. He helped me find the root of my math learning struggles, helped build my skills, and with that, build my confidence. I ended the course with 63%. While that wasn’t the success I was used to, I had still succeeded which meant everything to me. The following year we worked together again and with Mr. Powell’s support I completed grade 10 math with 74%. In grade 11, I felt that I had rebuilt my educational building blocks enough that I was prepared to learn independently, and I was able to maintain my 74% on my own. It wasn’t my usual straight A’s, but I was OK with that. I worked hard for my math grades and truly earned them. I was, and still am, proud of my achievement.
I always wanted to be a teacher and in University I started privately tutoring as the first step in my future career as an educator. I remembered what it was like to be a struggling learner and how it felt to be at risk of failing with no confidence in my academic ability. I drew on my learning experience and my experience with Mr. Powell’s tutoring style to form the basis of my own tutoring style. I find tutoring so rewarding that I tutored independently for 12 years.
In April 2017, I joined Tutor Doctor Simcoe County as a tutor and worked with 8 students over 11 months. In March 2018, I had the opportunity to turn my love of tutoring into a career and became the Tutor Experience Coordinator at Tutor Doctor Home Office. In this role I get to help over 17,000 tutors change the trajectory of a student’s life. That is more students than I could ever reach on my own! I can make a difference on a global scale. I help create high quality tutors and mentors by creating tutor resources, being a support for our huge network of tutors, and by acting as the tutor’s voice within Home Office.
I didn’t quit tutoring completely though! Tutoring is so important to me that I still work with my very first Tutor Doctor student for 2 hours every week.
Written by Becky Ward, Tutor Experience Coordinator
A previous post described how excellent preparation can be key to achieving successful test results, while also alleviating stress that can compromise performance. You know that you know the material, but can you prove it at test time?
An issue with proper preparation during the school year is that it takes time, something in short supply when so many other obligations are vying for your calendar and attention. So, it makes perfect sense to sharpen your preparation skills in the summer, when your time is more flexible.
With time on your side, think seriously about your highest test-taking stressors and the resources or skills needed to change course.
Do you lack confidence, or approach tests pessimistically?
If yes, getting in the proper mood can work wonders. After all, confidence is as much a test-taking skill as knowing math equations and formulas. Relaxing or meditating can help, but how about some active inspiration? A video that promotes an empowered mindset and good posture is a TED talk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy - with 47 million views in 51 languages. In her talk, Amy emotionally recounts experiences that taught her how to develop a personal “power pose” that helped her transform from powerless to powerful at critical times. Employing her two-minute technique before a stressful situation - like an exam or a job interview - can be a game-changer for you.
Do you rely excessively on instant recall or memory - and then freeze up?
Though you may not have a photographic memory, games, apps or face-to-face exercises can train you in powerful techniques to learn through association and reason instead of reaction. Accordingly, you can train your mind to logically connect one concept to another rather than taking a transactional ”all or nothing” approach. Online courses or apps like Lumosity and Braingle can be handy and helpful. A list including those resources can be found here. If you’re more old-school, connect with friends and family over games like Gin Rummy, Chess or Backgammon that employ a think-ahead or anticipatory strategy.
Do time limits make you tense?
With flexible and less stressful time in the summer, practice imposing time limits that occur under classroom or college entrance exam-taking conditions. Whether helped by family, friends or an online system, practice exams will document your progress in getting more done in less time, say, 20 problems in 30 minutes, then 25 minutes or even 20. Success under pressure is the ultimate test, and by imposing time constraints, you can get more comfortable operating under this all-too-common limit.
Are you going it alone?
If your mind tends to wander or you’re short on self-discipline, find an accountability partner to keep things in check. Hold each other to deadlines, and play the role of enforcer so that you can both succeed when it matters.
By using the leisure time of summer wisely, you can employ a “practice makes perfect” approach that will inspire confidence and improve your results when you need it most.
Tutoring is rewarding
When it comes down to it, the feeling of being able to successfully teach a student something (and having them retain, practice, and eventually master that concept) is an incredibly rewarding experience. Many of our tutors have a huge boost in self-esteem when they know they were a direct influence on, say, a student going from a C average to an A. It’s very common for tutors to stick with clients for a long time, as the rapport that builds between the tutor and the student (as well as their family) is vital to the education process. Tutors have the unique ability to make a lasting, positive difference in students’ lives, and that’s something to be proud of!
It looks great on your resume
Tutoring is, without a doubt, one of the best things to put on your resume. Being a tutor proves that you have the skills to clearly state instructions and explain concepts in way that is understandable and concise. Tutors are expected to alter their teaching methods based on the individual student’s learning style, and this flexibility shows prospective employers that you can approach situations in a multitude of ways. Tutoring also looks very impressive if you’re planning on applying to post-graduate education!
The hours are flexible
College students already have a lot to juggle between classes, exams, and general life responsibilities. When you’re already taking a full course load and need to be on campus several days out of the week, adding a couple eight-hour retail shifts to the mix sometimes just isn’t feasible! With tutoring, you get to set your own hours. For a college student that already has a busy schedule, tutoring is a great way to make money while still focusing on your university studies.
You can earn some extra money
In general, tutoring pays a lot better than other part-time jobs. Tutoring isn’t a service job, but rather a professional specialty field. As a result, the requirements (in terms of education, employment history, etc.) for tutors is typically much higher than the average retail job.
Tutoring helps you practice and improve your own skills
Interestingly enough, being a tutor also helps you to maintain your own skills as well! For example – although you may not have worked with algebra since high school, having to prepare yourself to properly instruct the student ultimately makes you better at these skills, too. When it comes time for an entrance exam or a placement test, you’ll be glad you had the opportunity to refresh yourself on material that might have otherwise been forgotten!
While there’s still 24 hours in a day, there’s less time to relax - and an urgency to maintain your edge or advantage. Accordingly, it’s important to find activities that ward off laziness and keep your mind sharp while you’re away from college.
An overarching theme is to combine structure and curiosity. Sure, it’s okay to fall back a little early in the summer - or on weekends - but doing so for too long will allow unproductive habits to creep in and undermine your momentum. Also, our 24 x 7 x 365 world and the seemingly constant need to be connected discourages slacking off.
Here are a few suggestions to avoid the summer slide:
Get a job!
There are many benefits to getting a job over the summer months, especially if your job jives with your college major, field of interest or volunteer interests.
Having a job will make you accountable to others and their schedules, and condition you to future employers’ expectations. Whatever you do, you’ll likely learn new skills and systems to keep you on your game. Of course, the jackpot is to land a paid internship, one where you can feed your need for knowledge, get a first-hand experience in your field, and make valuable connections or a strong impression on a potential long-term employer.
Continue your schooling
A recent post described several advantages of attending summer school. Besides saving on costs and getting courses out of the way, you’ll maintain a studious mindset and confront the challenges of exams.
Volunteer your time
Find an organization that speaks to your interests and allows you to gain some experience. The organization will welcome having your skills on-site. You’ll likely deal with real-world situations that have you bringing helpful solutions, and again, making new contacts will be a bonus.
Join a gym or recreational athletic league
Exercise or league play are excellent ways to learn new skills, practice teamwork or get in better shape. You can learn relaxation skills from Yoga, or at the other extreme, try Crossfit as a source of invigoration. The concentrated physical demands will help you shake off any rust and release endorphins as a source of stimulation. Participating in a softball or volleyball league can enhance your teamwork and collaboration skills.
If you’ve not explored MeetUp, it’s a digital melting pot where individuals can “find their people” through common interests in order to connect, explore an interest or practice a skill. Suppose your field of study requires proficiency in a foreign language. When you’re at school, a three-days-a-week class keeps you in practice. If you lose that community in summer, MeetUp can come to the rescue by connecting you with others also seeking to practice those skills through face to face conversations. Another option is to join a book club, where participants reading a common title meet regularly to discuss chapters, their meanings and implications. You’ll not only be more knowledgeable, you’ll be well-read and more conversational with others.
Though it’s natural to want to let your guard down in summer, readily available resources can help you refresh - and not retreat.
“Witnessing my student’s growth during the past year has been such a rewarding experience. She is not afraid to take chances when it comes to academics, and now she is taking chances socially and in her personal choices. I have thoroughly enjoyed helping to facilitate her growing independence.” – Gwen Cassady, Tutor, USA
One of my favorite students continually struggled to learn basic math facts. Although her skill level was that of students three to four grades below her, she was dedicated to working hard to improve. Last year she had such a difficult time that her parents were afraid she would not pass math and have to repeat the class. However, the student saw this challenge as a learning opportunity.
With help from her teacher, who provided me with additional resources to utilize during our tutoring sessions, I devised a new strategy for preparing the student to pass math. This involved having her create her own set of math facts flashcards, a process that often helps to facilitate memorization.
I encouraged the student’s parents to drill her nightly and to hold aside the facts that she struggled with so she and I could work on them together. In less than three tutoring sessions, the student had memorized all of the facts and was able to provide answers without any hesitation. The experience taught her a great deal about learning math and we both learned a valuable lesson: When something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to try a different course of action.
Her success underscored the importance of adapting my tutoring approach to the challenges of each individual student. Not only did I come up with a new study plan but I also altered my tutoring style, becoming firmer and focusing on time management. The student noticed a difference, and although she commented to her mother that I was stricter during our sessions, she also felt she was learning more effectively.
All of our students change and develop as we work with them. I believe our primary job as tutors is to recognize this and find ways to meet each student’s evolving needs. Our secondary responsibility is to help them learn new material, and our tertiary duty is to give them the necessary tools to train themselves.
While I am no longer working with this student due to changing needs, I have treasured watching her mature and come into her own as a person. Of all my students, she has grown the most academically and socially. Knowing that I have been able to support both her educational and personal development gives me great joy.
With summer just around the corner, we’d like to share some fun family activities you can try out! We know how important quality family time is for kids, and summer is a great time to catch up, unwind, and spend time with your family. There are plenty of group activities that are even more fun when spent with loved ones, so from all of us here at Tutor Doctor – we hope everyone has a great summer vacation!
1. Go on a family hike!
Hiking is excellent way to get exercise – and getting in touch with nature is always a good thing! Hiking trails come in all shapes, sizes, and difficulties, so there’s plenty of options out there if you prefer a more “mild” family trek. Don’t forget the bug spray!
2. Watch or participate in sports.
Going to a game, munching on delicious stadium snacks, and rooting for your favorite team is always a blast! If you are the athletic type, participating in team sports can also be a great family bonding experience as well. When one family member has a game, it’s always fun to attend and cheer them on!
3. Go swimming!
In general, the weather tends gets warmer during the summer. Sometimes there’s no better feeling than jumping into a cold pool on a hot day! If you don’t own a pool, most areas have community pools that are open to the public. A family trip to the water park also never fails to disappoint – assuming you live close enough to one!
4. Plan a beach day.
If you prefer sand and waves over diving boards and water slides, then the beach is for you! The beach has something to offer for everyone – whether you like to surf, play in the waves, or just set up a towel and read a book, a beach day is always a relaxing family outing. Make sure you bring sunscreen!
5. Organize a barbeque.
Food brings people together, and a family barbeque is no exception! Cooking over an open flame creates an unmistakable aroma, and many people associate the smell of a grill with summer time. There’s just something about having a big family barbeque and eating home-cooked food that we associate with fun summers – and there’s nothing wrong with that!
The weather is often much clearer during the summer, and as a result the night sky becomes more visible. Stargazing is a great family activity and trying together to point out the different constellations is a lot of fun. There’s also an annual meteor shower than happens every summer (between July and August) called The Perseids – we definitely recommend checking it out!
7. Go camping.
Camping is a classic family activity, and for good reason. Setting up a tent, building a campfire, and being surrounded by nature is a wonderful way to create lasting family memories. And don’t forget the delicious s’mores’!
8. Prepare for the next school year.
As we’ve touched on in previous blogs, it’s very easy to get rusty during the summer months when it comes to academics. Your family is a great resource! Whether it’s something as simple as making flashcards or helping on a big summer project, your family will undoubtedly be there to support you. It’s always good to do maintenance on what we’ve learned, and summer is a great time to review concepts that may have gotten fuzzy.
Have a fantastic summer and try to stay cool!
This blog post provides a great summary of 'The Power of One-to-One Tutoring' chapter from our recently published book, Academic Success Formula: How Ordinary Students Get Extraordinary Results.
At Tutor Doctor, we believe that every student is unique. Everyone learns differently, and the instructional approach needs to be altered for each individual student’s learning style. Some programs rely on specific educational requirements and traditional expectations, but we believe tutoring should be catered to a student’s own personal goals, needs, strengths, and challenges. On that note, we’d like to share some aspects that we believe make Tutor Doctor’s one-to-one approach truly “ahead of the curve”!
Mentoring is key. One of the most underrated facets of tutoring is the mentoring aspect. Students can largely benefit from having a positive role model to look up to, and when a student is motivated by their tutor, the learning process becomes even more fun and engaging. This sort of unique rapport is only possible with one-to-one methods.
Compensating for learning differences. As we mentioned before, tutors have the ability to adjust their instructional style to fit the individual student’s needs. Everyone’s brains are wired differently. Some students are visual learners and benefit most from visual aids. Some students are auditory learners and retain information best when they hear it explained to them. Other students are kinesthetic learners and may prefer a more active learning style with hands-on instructional materials. Being able to cater to each student’s learning style is a huge part of what makes one-to-one tutoring so effective!
Tutor matching. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of one-to-one tutoring is the ability to choose a good match for their child. At Tutor Doctor, we try to match all our students with tutors that have similar interests, learning styles, and schedules as them. When a student feels they have more in common with their tutor, a natural connection is formed that makes communication much easier.
Efficiency. Tutoring allows us to focus specifically on challenge areas. Let’s say a student needs help reducing fractions. In a classroom setting, the teacher may have already moved past that point in the material – or is now introducing newer concepts. Even though the student really needed more practice in this area, these learning gaps too often get glossed over. With Tutor Doctor’s one-to-one tutoring process, we can zone-in on problem areas and greatly aid the student’s overall progress.
Targeted instruction. One-to-one tutoring allows students to be taught at their current level of proficiency. Just because a student is in 4th grade reading class, it doesn’t mean they are reading at a 4th grade level. In cases like this, students are often behind on important skills that were never fully understood when originally taught to them. Private tutoring, on the other hand, allows us to go back and address these learning gaps. If a student didn’t retain the bulk of 3rd grade vocabulary, they cannot be expected to understand 4th grade material. Education is always building on previous concepts!
Materials. In a one-to-one teaching situation, tutors have access to work with a multitude of materials that address the student’s needs. For instance, some students may learn better on a computer, as opposed to traditional pen-and-paper instruction. For these students, additional online curriculum may be a better method of practice than, say, physical flashcards. In addition, some students have trouble keeping their schedules (and backpacks) organized. We work with students to help them work on their agenda, plan out their assignments, and keep their materials organized through our X-Skills Program. Parents are often amazed by how neat folders and a clear agenda can make such a big difference in their student’s academic success!
Over the years, education has seen a trend towards individualization of instruction. At Tutor Doctor, we’re thrilled to see this change! We truly believe that everyone learns better when the instruction has been tailored to their individual needs. All students can learn – it’s up to us to figure out how they do it best!
“As I watched my student receive his high school diploma, I felt like he was one of my own. Thanks to Tutor Doctor's unique home school approach, he overcame his learning disability and gained the confidence that comes with knowing he can take on any challenge. It was a moment I will never forget.” – Dr. David Wilson,Tutor, USA
I had plenty of tutoring experience, but had never worked with students with autism. So when I was asked to tutor an autistic high school senior in English and U.S. History, I hesitated – uncertain if I would be able to meet the family's expectations.
Unable to function in an over stimulating environment, the student dropped out of public school and his parents had enrolled him in an online high school. Their goal was clear: if the student could pass both classes with a D or better, he would be allowed to graduate with his high school class.
After meeting with the student and his family, I decided to accept the assignment.
The student and I began working together for one hour, three times a week. The online course syllabi for both classes was rigorous, and it soon became clear that three hours a week was not enough time for him to complete the required assignments. He was easily distracted when it came to learning new material, and focusing his attention on a subject for more than a few minutes was a constant challenge.
However, I discovered that the student had an encyclopedic memory for things he was passionate about. He was obsessed with James Bond movies and knew the smallest details about the directors, writers, actors, and storylines. He also had exceptional space relation recognition and could put together a complex jigsaw puzzle in a few hours.
I decided to harness his unique strengths to ignite his interest in literature and history. As long as he could relate a subject to a James Bond plot, the student could make a connection. For one essay he compared Beowulf to a Bond villain. To help him make sense of Macbeth, I found a connection with a female character that had manipulated Bond. As a reward for a good day's work, we finished the session by working together on one of his puzzles.
Soon we were meeting three hours a day, five days a week, and making tangible progress. It was time to tackle a second hurdle: the test clock.
The final exams were timed, and during practice tests the student became increasingly agitated by the clock ticking at the bottom of his computer screen. I contacted the school counselor, explained the student’s anxiety, and said I was certain he could be successful if he had more time to complete the tests. The school agreed to remove the clock.
After eight arduous months of tutoring, the student took his final exams. He didn't just pass – he earned an A in English and a B+ in U.S. History. It was a proud moment for the student and his family, and for me as well. Taking the student out of a chaotic environment and allowing him to be tutored one-on-one at home helped thrive academically. Combined with my efforts to genuinely connect with the student and find creative ways to help him learn, it was a recipe for success.
“Summer days, driftin’ away….”
“Summer sun, something’s begun - but uh-oh those summer nights.”
Olivia Newton-John as Sandy, and John Travolta as Danny, in Grease, 1978
If your summer won’t be filled with the fun and frolic of mythical Rydell High School, well...you should likely consider how you’ll best spend the upcoming months.
Three options may bubble up often, and can even be combined: working a job, and vacation/travel and gulp, summer school.
Working creates needed income and teaches responsibility. A good summer job can start a lifetime passion, help you master a life skill or spark an entrepreneurial dream.
A vacation or travel can create long-lasting family memories, involve philanthropy through a mission-style trip, or inspire a lifetime love of adventure. But because trips are not typically an all-summer experience, you’ll likely have other time to fill.
By making school a part of your summer, you can stay sharp, accelerate your educational progress and potentially save a lot of money. Once limited to mandatories like gym, drivers education or math, summer school has expanded by topic and venue to create excellent long-term opportunities per hour invested.
While many students dreamily envision a summer of taking it easy, chillin’ - or whatever you might call it - they’re also conditioned to a certain life pace and thirst for intellectual stimulation. Excessive idle time or putting learning on hold can be a one-way ticket to boredom. Instead, enrolling in summer-style classes can be refreshing and highly beneficial. Consider taking classes that may not have been offered earlier, or, whose commitment could be compromised by rigid sports or performance arts practice schedules.
Think of summer school as a down payment toward your larger goals. The compacted course content allows a subject to be satisfied in weeks, not months. By completing required classes or honors versions over the summer, you can knock out a few of the must-haves - and usually, the sooner the better. A rule of thumb is to take 12-15 hours if you’re working part-time, and 3-6 hours if you’re working more of a full-time schedule.
Summer school may be a necessity. Perhaps you need to catch up or become more proficient in a certain subject. Or maybe the escalating cost of college and increased student financial responsibility - compared to prior generations - makes summer school attractive. Summer courses in baseline subjects can be accomplished at a 50% - 75% cost savings (think of it as a discount) and will likely transfer to a traditional four-year university. Completing summer coursework can not only save money now, but can also maximize your dollar or time investment later. With published reports citing a $594 average cost per college credit hour, it pays to spend your time and money wisely. By graduating from college a semester early through advance coursework or high achievement, overall college savings can top $20,000.
Increasingly, summer school isn’t limited to the same-old classroom routine. A “must-see” college or university may offer a summer pre-college program, allowing you to experience campus life, meet staff and other prospective students, or discover under-the-radar scholarships. You might even find yourself being recruited, and later, having summer school on your resume will speak highly of your initiative and discipline.
When considering how to spend your summer, give extra attention to the benefits of summer school.
A big part of test prep comes down to timing. Test dates for college admissions exams are set well in advance and should be the goal posts for planning an effective preparation strategy. That said, when should students officially start their test prep?
The truth is that there is that this multi-layered question has both a short answer and a long answer.
First, the long answer: it depends on the student, their needs, and their goals. Here are some common scenarios and some suggested plans for how and when to approach test prep efforts.
For students that enter high school looking to establish their college-bound track, test prep can (and should) start early.
Starting test prep this late in the game makes things challenging. While it may not be a fool’s errand, the longer students wait to start their test prep, the more triage-focused it becomes. Instead of maximizing growth across all content areas and test sections, tutors are forced to target low-hanging fruit that is ripe for a quick-fix.
All that said, the short answer to the question of when students should start test prep is simple: now! The sooner students begin familiarizing themselves with the tests, making test registration decisions, and working towards improvement goals, the better!