Question: “My 8 year old student is very shy. We have met three times now and I find it hard to get her to contribute more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to my questions. Do you have any suggestions on getting her to open up and be more proactive in tutoring?”
It’s possible this child has very low self esteem or has gone through a traumatic experience. In your sessions, do what you can to make her feel confident by praising and rewarding her for her efforts. You should also think about incorporating high-interest learning material to engage her. For example, teach her to say hello in several different languages and how to count in them as well. Students enjoy learning things others may not know. Praise her a lot for any little improvement you observe. It takes a long time to repair feelings of inadequacy, and if she has experienced trauma, she may have heard or felt that things are her fault. Counteract that feeling when you can. She may also be reluctant to trust adults. The more time you spend with her on activities that make her feel accomplished, the more she will hopefully come to trust you and participate more enthusiastically.
It’s also possible that your student is simply shy and needs patience. The strategies above will work for shy students as well, particularly the method of using high-interest subject matter to inspire participation. Find out what movies, music, sports or books your student likes and incorporate them whenever possible. Last, make sure to take it easy on yourself and your student. Tutoring relationships, like all relationships, take time to grow and develop, and expecting too much too soon will only discourage you. Take it one session at a time, and before you know it, your student will be excited to see you every week.
About the tutors:
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.
Amanda Carr joined School on Wheels in early 2015. As engagement specialist at School on Wheels, she is dedicated to providing volunteers with resources to help them succeed.
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