14 February 2019
Daniel Blore is Manager and Educator at Extended Learning Centres, Mooloolaba
So, your child isn’t keen on ‘tutoring’?
I don’t blame them!!!
Many kids have a negative preconception of tutoring based either on their own experience, “It’s a waste of my time,” or on the schoolyard stigma, “Tuition is for dumb kids.”
On average, tuition can be… well, average. But occasionally, interventions are done quite poorly.
Whether your child has experienced this themselves or seen others go through it, there is often resistance to the idea of getting help. In psychology, this is described by the similarity heuristic – projecting past experiences onto ‘similar’ future situations.
You know your child could use the support, but how can you get them to feel comfortable with the idea?
I don’t need to tell you that it’s crucial to empathise with where your child’s aversion developed from. So, I’ll walk you through a generalised scenario based on experiences relayed by many families we’ve worked with. For your child’s sake, I hope it doesn’t sound too familiar. But if it rings some bells, then in my next post, I suggest how you might approach the topic with your child to bring them on-side.
How can tuition be negative?
Let’s take “Jack” and maths, for example.
And by no means is ALL learning support like this. But unfortunately it’s common enough to make me clench my teeth in frustration as I think of all the students who’ve come to us after such experiences.
- Something happens that starts Jack on a downward trend in his maths performance…
- …had a teacher who didn’t connect with him;
- …dumbed himself down to impress his new friend group;
- …brain went AWOL at the onset of puberty
- …missed some key content because he got sick, changed school, couldn’t see the board, has an unaddressed impairment, was distracted in class…
- For some time, Jack falls further and further behind.
- Based on this ‘evidence’, he believes that he is simply not capable of ‘getting’ this stuff like everyone else.
- “Something’s wrong with me. Why even try!”
- Someone who cares about Jack notices and decides Jack needs help.
- They see his struggle and his potential.
- BUT, the help feels forced on him.
- He was not made central to the decision process.
- He was not first made to believe in his own potential.
- Worst case, Jack is conspicuously absent from regular class to attend remediation instead.
- This is social humiliation and Jack resents any efforts to help.
- Meanwhile, the class moves even further ahead, without him.
- OR, Jack is sent to extra classes.
- To Jack, this is punishment, eating up his precious free time to do more of something he hates.
- The tuition is either:
- …the same content as his class, just presented more slowly. Gaps in foundation knowledge aren’t filled, so he still can’t follow;
- …too ‘baby’, slow, boring, repetitious, that even if it engaged him, he would still never catch up;
- …just doing his homework sheets with him, without ‘joining the dots’ of understanding.
- …wastes time on non-critical content which Jack won’t need for future maths.
- The maths content may or may not help Jack’s performance. BUT his negative self-perception is never addressed, and new habits are not instilled.
- When the maths tutoring stops, Jack slowly falls behind again and the cycle starts again.
- This time the problems are compounded, affirming Jack’s belief:
- “I can’t do maths without extra help. Why even try!”
Why would Jack (or Jill) ever give ‘tuition’ another go!?
In a situation like this, Jack’s self-confidence spirals downwards, so his maths skills, application, effort and attention all follow. His maths teacher now reports ‘behavioural problems’ in class.
Jack’s a great guy, everyone else agrees. He excels in other areas, but bring up maths or tutoring, tuition, remediation, learning support… and the defences come up. He’s decided he’ll be either a Youtuber or NRL captain and ‘won’t need maths for that’.
He’s learned to protect himself from feeling humiliation.
And he can’t stand to waste more time on a lost cause.
If Jack does eventually find the right help, with each year passed, it has become harder and harder to convince him that he could ever keep pace with his peers.
To intercept this cycle it helps to understand
Extended Learning is not just ‘tuition’
Again, not all tuition is as poorly implemented as this!
(One Sunshine Coast school explained in February 2018: “‘Learning Support’ for your child is not always an obvious withdrawal or one-on-one support as it may have been in the past…”)
But we still see it too often for my liking. And we wish we could have intervened right back at the beginning, when there was far less ‘water under the bridge’.
Be that as it may, wherever your child is at, you’re reading this now. So, given that the choice is to either act now or act later, now is the best time to act.
Extended learning is great for preventing students from falling behind, but understandably, parents or schools often come to ELC once a problem has developed. It could be recent, or it may have started years ago. So what do you google at that point?
“Tutoring Sunshine Coast” …OK, fair enough. But what we do is so much more than tuition that we don’t even call it tuition or tutoring.
At ELC we take students as they are now, and we take into account their history, but more importantly, we focus on their future.
Psychology is key to what we do. Without first getting that right, pushing content at a student worsens the situation.
Our other big ‘secret’ for having students realise their abilities and not slip behind again? Show them that they are capable of learning ahead of their peers. From that point, confidence snowballs forwards rather than backwards.
Convincing Jack to give it another go
“OK, I’m on board, but how do I get my child through your door?” you ask?