Over the next several weeks, our tutors will share some of their most challenging tutoring moments, as well as the strategies they used to overcome these obstacles. This week’s entry is from Jackie Romo, who discusses working with a student who was so far behind, he completely shut down during their sessions.
A couple of years ago, I met a student who entered school for the first time ever in third grade. By the time I met him, he was a fourth grader, and as one can imagine, incredibly behind in school. During our first session, he seemed excited to be working with me and loved the book I read aloud to him. When I took out a second book and said, “your turn,” he completely shut down. He not only refused to read, but he told me he didn’t want a tutor after all. When I offered him another book, he said all of the books were “lame.”
No matter what I tried, he refused, and the rest of the session was rough to say the least. It took me a while to get this student to do much of anything, and I felt as though I was wasting his time each time I came for tutoring. Since he was so far behind in school, however, I knew it was important that I not give up on him. Eventually I realized that I had not spent any time getting to know my student. I knew quite a bit of information about him academically, but I had no idea what his interests were. I began to compile a wide variety of books, and each session, I’d share them to learn more about his likes and dislikes. I knew I needed something to grab his interest if our sessions were going to be beneficial.
After a small amount of success, I finally hit the jackpot when I brought an encyclopedia of science books for kids that I came across at the library. It was a large hardcover book with plenty of interesting pictures and science facts. On that day, he said something that changed our sessions: “I love doing science experiments!” After that, I was set. We made a deal to work hard on reading activities, study math flashcards, then use the last fifteen minutes of each session to do a short science experiment. He was in! Each week, I’d google search an easy science experiment, and for the most part, I could get him to do any kind of work or studying in exchange for a fun experiment.
After that experience, I learned the importance of knowing my student both academically and personally. In addition to the School on Wheels ‘getting-to-know you survey, I found a more detailed survey on Scholastic.com. Each time I got a new student, I made sure to administer the survey sometime during the first formal session. In the end, when we make student interests seem valuable and important, our students are more willing to respect the work we do during our sessions.
About the tutor: Jackie Romo has been a School in Wheels tutor for nearly 9 years. Aside from tutoring, she teaches first grade in Rowland Heights and recently earned a MS in reading. She is happy to help in any way she can to make your tutoring sessions successful!
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