Sep 22

Ask A Tutor Tuesday! – 9/22/2015

Ask A Tutor Tuesday! – 9/22/2015

Question: My question is about student behavior and if you frequently come across destructive behavior or behavior that shows students don’t want to be there. How do you deal with that, especially with the older kids?


Hi Jonathan,

Great question. There are definitely times when students, especially older students, might appear uninterested in tutoring. Actual physically destructive behavior is very uncommon. The best thing to do with an unengaged student is to find out what they want to learn. This way, they are helping to lead the tutoring session rather than being just a passive participant. Students who are engaged are also much less likely to act out.

First, simply ask them what they want to learn. My student wanted to learn cursive even though Common Core says no. We worked on it together, and now she has very nice handwriting. She also wanted to learn about elephants, so we wrote to the elephant rescue in Hohenwald, Tennessee. Writing topics can be anything. Think outside the box and bring interesting lessons to your sessions. For example, teach your student to count in Chinese or another language. We all like to feel smart and learn something most people do not know. If your student says everything at school is boring, that is just because they are not getting to the good stuff in the subject. For example, no one ever said ‘foot-binding’ is boring. Take them out of their comfort zone. From foot-binding it is not a far stretch to teach them about the Silk Road. You might also try trivia to set an interesting tone for the session, e.g. ” What very fat American president got stuck in a bathtub in the White House?”

Last, if you would like tips on tutoring older students or students in a group home, School on Wheels has some great resources in their workshops, for example, this one on Tackling Teens. The most important thing you can do is build a bond with your student, no matter their age, so that they trust and respect you from the beginning.

Hope this helped.


About the tutor: Pat Bayha has been tutoring with School on Wheels for over a year, and also tutors at Tuba City Boarding School on the Navajo Reservation. She is a former teacher with the Montebello Unified School District and has many years of experience teaching in inner city high schools, including advanced placement students and bilingual learners.

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