Tutoring Parents About Tutoring

Tutoring Parents About Tutoring


School work causes stress – this is not news to anyone. One of the many solutions is enlisting the help of a tutor, but hiring one is just a beginning. It comes as a surprise to many parents that the student-tutor relationship may need a little parental managing. Jamie Altshule is an educational consultant and founder of Academic Success. She also happens to be a former middle- and high school English teacher. But most of all, she is wise and thoughtful on this subject. 


Guest columnist Jamie Altshule, owner and founder of Academic Success

How many times have you checked in with your student about their homework? Are these repeated conversations in your house?

“Did you bring your assignment book to all of your classes?”

“When will you check in with your Chem teacher about that makeup work?”

“Is your free reading book in your backpack?”

“Have you picked a topic for your Science Project yet?”

“What did your Physics teacher say about that quiz from last week?”

Moms and Dads are often relegated to the job of homework police (at varying levels of intensity) in order to keep their student on track. These interactions can produce rolled eyes, whiny responses, and occasionally arguments. At certain tipping points, parents will reach into the fray for support. Support can come in the shape of an academic tutor: a vibrant new face, sometimes saying the same things you have been saying for years, but the tutor’s coaching is “heard with new ears.” Step-by-step, students begin to respond to the coaching and improve their habits and performance.

Once a tutor is on board, that’s great, but a new challenge arises. How do you manage this new relationship for best effectiveness? Well, every student and family circumstance is unique; nevertheless there are a couple rules of thumb that can be applied for great workability.

Keys to Creating an Effective Student-Tutor-Parent Relationship:

1.      Make a short list of concerns

2.      Keep the tutor on a steady schedule

3.      Texting is great, except for when it’s not

4.      Check-ins on progress

Creating a short list of your concerns is a useful exercise to create clarity for both parents and the new tutor. The list is a tool to open proactive communication at the start of the relationship, and the list is a tangible item both parties can refer back to later to get a sense of the progress and accomplishments being made. Although it’s a simple idea, often academic goals go unsaid and assumptions are made from all sides. Better for all parties to be on the same page. With time, the goals will change, and the list gets upgraded. Crossing items off of the list gives parents the opportunity to congratulate their student and appreciate the hard work of the tutor. 

Once the expectations are set and agreed upon, a steady schedule of sessions is essential in creating good study habits and long-term success.  Good study habits are still just habits. Habits take a long time to create and sometimes even longer to re-create into patterns that actually work. If sessions are sporadic and unpredictable, unsurprisingly, the results that follow might also be sporadic and unpredictable. A few good test scores are exciting triumphs in the moment. However, working on building and fine-tuning study habits will create a longer trajectory of good scores, and greater ease in completing the day-to-day work.

Please watch this 2-min tip video to get a deeper cut of this idea.

Watch Set a Steady Schedule on YouTube

Once the tutor is on a steady schedule, texting is an effective tool for quick communications. For example, the tutor might text the parent that they are running 5-10 min late. Perfect. A parent might text the tutor requesting a change in the schedule from Monday to Tuesday. Great. Another good text from a parent is a piece of information that the tutor might not know. “Hi Matt, Allie was sick on Wednesday and didn’t go to school. Please check in about the makeup work. Thanks.”

Exchanges NOT to have over text: any matter that requires a real conversation where tone of voice is helpful. Texts are easily misinterpreted. People often get the wrong idea.  At worst, feelings can get ruffled.  Any conversation more complex than an ETA update deserves a real face-to-face. Conversation guidelines: texting for quick updates, email for matters you’d like to keep on record, phone conversations if meeting in person is not possible, and face-to-face for progress check-ins.

Finally, check-ins.  Check-ins create support and accountability, both key ingredients in achieving positive results. What is a check-in? A check-in is a brief conversation between a parent and tutor. A possible recipe for the conversation: reference the “list,” discuss recent student events, acknowledge progress, share concerns, and finish with agreed upon action steps. This entire conversation can be a mere 5 minutes, maybe as long as 10 minutes on occasion. This simple chat keeps the tutor and the parent on-track with the goals and powerful with forwarding them. Keep check-ins frequent and keep them brief.