Question: Do you have any suggestions for engaging my student’s mom? She always polite and says thanks but doesn’t ask about what we’re doing at all. I’d like to suggest that she goes over his multiplication tables because he is making slow progress memorizing them.
Timesia Garcia: Being a School on Wheels tutor, you will learn that you cannot solve every issue you encounter while working with the student(s) you tutor. Sometimes, an attempt at solving these issues may seem as if you are crossing boundaries (and you might be). There are a number of reasons the parent may not seem as interested in their child’s education as you’d hoped. The parent probably has a lot on their mind about other issues and we have to remember that.
However, there are some tactics you can try when it comes to keeping the parent informed on how your student is doing.
- Before a session, show the parent what you intend to work on with their child. It’s good to walk in with a plan beforehand. Ask if the student needs school supplies or anything else in that time–and see if the parent(s) have any concerns about what their child should work on (homework or extra practice on certain materials).
- After the session, request to speak with the parent (most times, the student will notify their parent for me). Discuss progress and have the child explain what they accomplished to their parent. Be positive and praise the child’s behavior or progress. Let the parent know what needs improvement and politely suggest they continue to practice and study between tutoring sessions.
By following these guidelines, I have done what I can without imposing myself on the child and parent. I know you want the best for your student, but we can only do so much on our part. I hope this helps.
Jackie Romo: In my experience, parents are actually more interested in what we do during tutoring sessions than we think. However, parents often believe they don’t know enough about math or reading to help their child. In order to engage parents and keep them actively involved in their child’s learning, you may want to try some of these suggestions:
- Create a short progress report: You don’t have to make elaborate notes, but think about using a checklist system to keep the parent involved and aware of strengths and weaknesses. A checklist may also be helpful for parents to refer to when they speak more formally with their child’s teacher.
- Share resources: If you have a fun game or engaging activity, why not ask your student to play with their parent throughout the week? For example, there are several multiplication activities that can be done with flashcards. During a session, your student could make their very own set of flashcards (with index cards or paper) and use them to review or play a game with their parent. If the parent is reluctant or too busy, suggest putting them up in their room so that the child can see and review them everyday. Share your ideas and suggestions with parents and they may actually try them out.
- Don’t be afraid to communicate: If the parent you are working with doesn’t ask about the tutoring session, don’t be afraid to share their child’s progress anyway. In the beginning, try to balance your feedback and focus on the student’s strengths and weaknesses. Communicating with the parent may also help keep your student accountable for his/her learning. If you are in regular communication with your student’s parent, he/she will understand that tutoring time is important and the goal is to make academic progress.
As a tutor, we have to remember that we not only influence our student’s academic progress, but we also support parents in their responsibilities outside of school. By including them in their child’s academic progress, we are helping to build a positive attitude toward learning. Take the initiative and talk to the parent! They’ll thank you for it!
About the Tutors: Timesia Garcia is a dedicated volunteer, passionate about helping others. She studies sociology at a local community college and has been tutoring with School on Wheels for almost two years.
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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