As a parent who knows the value of a great education, you want your child to be successful enough in school to take ownership of their own academic growth. When your child begins to take ownership, or recognize their own role in their academic success, they’re more likely to be self-motivated to achieve their best outcome. Academic tutoring can be a valuable part of this journey.
But there’s a lot more going on in the typical classroom than schoolwork, especially for most middle school and high school students — and kids don’t always have the confidence to ask for help when they need it. “In any circumstance, having to ask for help is hard for a 12-year-old, a 16-year-old, even a 42-year-old,” says Andrew Ferguson, Director of Client Services with Academic Approach, the Chicago- and Winnetka-based tutoring and test prep company.
If you suspect your child is reluctant to ask for help at school — or the classroom environment just isn’t a comfortable place for asking questions — some one-on-one help can make a big difference. At this mid-point in the school year, now is a great time to explore individualized academic tutoring, Ferguson says.
“We all look at the new year to start anew. If there was a time to feel comfortable with the tutoring experience, whatever grades you had in the first semester, now is the time,” he says, adding that Academic Approach tutors work to give students and parents direction for the new semester.
We spent time with Ferguson and Academic Approach Regional Director Carla Pedersen to get insight into the real value of academic tutoring. Here, we share their wisdom for helping your child take ownership over their academic experience, with the help of individualized academic tutoring.
Pursuit of self-motivation
Encouragement from an academic tutor can help students grow self-motivation, especially when they are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, Pedersen says. “It’s not that students aren’t motivated, but they don’t always know what they don’t know,” she says. “Giving them a structured plan and helping identify the areas they need to work on offers that outside perspective and teaches them how to use their time in the best possible way and where to focus their studying.”
Before a tutoring program begins, Academic Approach meets with each family, discusses the prospective student’s academic goals, and provides a complimentary diagnostic test, which will highlight the student’s particular strengths and weaknesses. An education professional then analyzes the diagnostic test results and works with the family to develop a specialized, effective study plan.
Pedersen emphasizes that tutoring shouldn’t only be seen as an intervention tool for struggling students. Academically strong students and confident test-takers alike can benefit from tutoring because it encourages them to maintain good habits.
“Tutoring doesn’t need to be something that students do every day or even every week, but in a way that suits a family’s and a student’s needs,” Ferguson says. “Some kids use tutoring as a check-in. They may not have a weakness, but they want to make sure they don’t develop a weakness because getting behind is the hardest part. They want to prevent the situation of having to keep up and simultaneously dig themselves out of a hole.”
What students gain from one-on-one tutoring
While some students may be reluctant to seek help from a tutor, once they start seeing success and feel more confident in the classroom, the benefits begin to scaffold.
“It really hits home that the sooner kids learn to ask for help, the better, but that is easier said than done,” Pedersen says. “Some older students we have helped come back to us because they recognize how to use the resources of Academic Approach. So, success feeds on itself.”
Pedersen and Ferguson reflect that in other areas of a student’s life, asking for help and receiving extra practice are regarded positively. “There are so many areas where students don’t question asking for help. In sports, for instance, many students are used to receiving special training sessions or asking their coaches for help with mastering a particular skill. It’s interesting that in academia, some students feel hesitant to speak up or seek out extra practice,” Pedersen says.
“No one would question a baseball player wanting to work more. They’re viewed as a go-getter, giving 110%. But if you want extra help in geometry, students are afraid of being perceived as nerdy. We help kids see that it’s not bad to be smart,” Ferguson says, adding that on college campuses, seeking help is the norm — and students will be expected to know how to ask for help.
The majority of students seeking tutoring from Academic Approach are high schoolers, but education professionals urge that beginning a tutoring regimen during middle school is ideal. Ferguson notes that proactive tutoring can greatly benefit students. “What they’re doing in sixth grade will enable them to succeed in high school,” he says. Pedersen adds that, “Practice builds a stronger mind.”
Getting to the ‘aha! moment’
Willingness to vocalize what you don’t understand is a scary thing for anyone, but especially for young students. With the right help and encouragement, students can easily overcome their fears and vulnerabilities.
“Tutoring allows students to ask uncomfortable questions and be the student they may not be in front of their peers,” says Ferguson. By unlocking this door, students can take advantage of working individually with a tutor who is skilled in presenting information in its most accessible format.
“Math is a universal language, but sometimes it needs to be translated from the textbook. When I meet with students, knowing as much as humanly possible about that student helps me translate quickly and provide a comfortable environment,” Ferguson says. “A huge part of what we do is good, old-fashioned translating of what the teacher is saying and filling in gaps to bridge the student’s understanding.”
It’s a very rewarding experience for tutors when their students begin to unlock their potential. Pedersen agrees that it’s exciting to see students’ pride grow with each success. “They feel relief,” she says. “And once they get past one challenge, they can take the next step in understanding.”
Learn more about Academic Approach at academicapproach.com.