Jul 24, 2019
Your student’s “network of influence” is the group of stakeholders that have impact on their learning, from parents and teachers to a wider orbit of adults who are influential in students’ lives.
It’s a well-worn maxim that it takes a village to raise a child, and educators know how much community means to molding a successful learning environment.
Tutors occupy a special place in a student’s life alongside other major influencers. Making the connections between those key individuals may take some work, but building your student’s network of influence pays long-term dividends for their academic and future lives.
Identifying the game players
Who falls within a student’s network of influence?
Identify people around your student who have:
It isn’t too hard to know who plays the key roles in your student’s life. After all, if they’re under college age, you’re likely speaking regularly to one or two of them: the parents. Tutors need a strong, two-way line of communication with parents to ensure that, for tutors, you’re aware of important information about your student, and for parents, they know how they can contribute to meeting students’ needs.
Parents are also tutors’ degree of separation from the school. What teachers should the tutor connect with? How does the student get along with their teachers and peers, and for that matter, in the school environment generally? Tutors need solid intel to inform their understanding of how a student performs at school. Parents are your first go-to.
If you’re tutoring a student in math, your educational counterparts at your student’s school are an easy addition to the network of influence.
By reaching out to your student’s teachers, tutors can deepen the impact that the additional learning has on a student’s overall learning process. Learn what worked and what didn’t in the classroom, what inspires and what frustrates your student, and other vital information that can support your student’s learning. Remember: it’s a two-way conversation where everyone brings something to the table. It’s important to share your own insights and to listen.
Coaches. Caregivers. Counselors. (Other tutors.)
Other adults play major roles in shaping a child’s environment. A conversation with parents can reveal the expanded inner circle that you can incorporate into your network around the student’s life.
Who’s who in this expanded orbit?
Some students have busy parents who can afford to provide their children with stay-at-home care, like nannies or babysitters. Other parents might rely on family members. These caregivers provide much of the same emotional and social support that parents do.
Coaches on school and community sports teams - after all, coaches get to see a different side of an active student on the field, court, or track. And if your student isn’t active in some kind of sports, consider promoting the idea: studies have consistently shown that physical activity is linked to better academics.
Counselors or, if your student is experiencing mental health issues and seeing a therapist, can also provide valuable input to help reinforce constructive study habits.
And perhaps you’re not the only tutor in your student’s life. If you’re the math tutor and there’s another tutor, say teaching English literature, it’s worth you two connecting. As with your relationship with teachers, connecting with other independent educators benefits you as a tutor as well, with professional development and social support for an otherwise and oftentimes solo enterprise.
A network to thrive
Bringing together the key adults in a student’s life is an effective, community-based approach to learning. It also recognizes the multiple, diverse ways that each key influence impacts your student’s life, and the unique contributions each brings to the network.