A professional's advice on the first session of the year and how tutors can start strong.
As the first day of school looms for so many kids nationwide, I thought it might be helpful to take a moment to discuss some first tutoring session of the year tips to get the tutor-student relationship moving as productively as possible.
As tutors, we’d love to believe that our students have spent their summers methodically chipping away at their summer homework, going to museums, and reading recreationally. But for most kids, this isn’t what’s been filling their time. For most kids, summer represents a much-needed break from heavy academic workloads and they can end up (literally) in sleep-mode. Whether it’s camp, video games, beach time, visiting family and friends, or something else entirely, there’s often a palpable academic backslide from the previous year.
Needless to say, it’s our job as tutors to get the ship righted as quickly as possible. For this reason, it’s critical that you find a balance between helping students get the academic wheels turning without moving so fast as to frustrate them unnecessarily.
- Last year first.
A review of the previous year’s relevant content can sometimes be more valuable than rushing into current and future assignments.
One of the quickest skills to disappear (and easiest to recover!) over the summer is organization. Consider carving out a meaningful chunk of the first session to devote exclusively to organization. Setting a foundation for organization with students now will absolutely improve the quality of your tutoring sessions in the future.
It’s no secret that each of us has our own preferred organizational tools, but writing things down doesn’t just make us more likely to attend to things, it can radically change our lives for the better. Simply put, hand-written assignments/notes-to-self can be more effective simply because they’re less likely to disappear in the sea of tech overload so many of us experience.
Make sure students have the supplies they need.
This can include paper, pens, notebooks, binders, clips, folders etc.
Build a global calendar.
Gather all syllabi and help the student craft a global calendar (ideally on a dry-erase board on their wall) to keep an eye on upcoming assignments.
Clean that room.
We haven’t been hired to help kids clean their rooms, and yet… a wildly disorganized room (assuming that’s where you and the student are working) can adversely impact the tutoring. If the work environment is particularly disastrous, see if you can find a way to broach the subject with the student and, if absolutely necessary, loop in their parents to the physical state of disarray. Remember, it’s just a matter of time before an important homework assignment, book or paper disappears under piles of clothes and which will needlessly cause grades to suffer.
For lots of kids, the stark schedule alteration from lazy mornings to regular school days can be disorienting or worse. As a weekly (or even bi-weekly) contributor to their lives, you can’t and shouldn’t need to remind your students to go to sleep at a reasonable hour. What you can do is impress upon them the importance of being rested for the long days ahead. If you’re having a hard time convincing them, feel free to show them this. And while you’re touting the virtues of a sleep, consider exploring teen procrastination, which is usually the single biggest culprit robbing teens (and adults) of their necessary rest.
Too often kids will make a decision about the “value” of a class based on early assignments and early interactions with their teacher. And once a student has concluded that he/she isn’t liked or respected by the teacher or that assignments are unfair, it can become extremely difficult to motivate them to do their best work in that class. For this reason, it’s critical that you defend classes, teachers and content as vigilantly as you can, at least early on. While it’s true that some teachers are unfair or unreasonable with their students, allowing a student to blame academic outcomes on external factors is a dangerous game that can have long-term repercussions. Sometimes, what kids need even more than a full-throated defense of a teacher is a nugget of content that inspires them to give full effort.
There’s no perfect equation to get kids humming academically after a summer off. But tailoring your approach to each student and really putting them in a position to succeed early in the year can produce wonderful outcomes down the road.
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