When it comes to expat students, academics isn’t always the only reason a student struggles in school. A change in expectations and the rigorous demands of international schools are common difficulties faced by many students. Rhonda Mahs, mother of a Shanghai Community International School (SCIS) 11th grade student, explains: “the curriculum and instructional practices were very different from what he was accustomed to coming from the US to an international school.” Before contacting a tutoring service, there are many resources available to your children through their school. From peer tutoring, to extra help before or after school and specialized support programs, many international schools are able to offer a great deal of support. According to Yew Chung International School of Shanghai (YCIS) Puxi primary curriculum director, James Wilcox, “learning support staff work directly with some students to provide specialized and highly focused support. All of our support services are collaborative efforts, and the most effective of these are those that include both parents and staff.”
Yet sometimes, even with all of the support from school and at home, outside tutoring becomes necessary. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for success. “When parents are considering whether tutoring is necessary, we would suggest that they discuss it with their child’s teachers and consider a number of factors including: whether there are specific gaps that a tutor can assist to remediate on a short-term basis; how the tutoring time commitment might affect other important aspects of their child’s life (including play); and how the tutoring might affect them emotionally,” explains Wilcox. After speaking with your child’s teacher and administration, if it is decided that the best thing you can do is to hire an outside tutor, there are many things that you, as a parent, can do to help ensure the tutoring process is successful.
Tutors are trained to use effective and personalized strategies to ensure the student gets the most from their tutoring sessions. Owner of Shanghai Expat Tutors, Cesar Velazquez, encourages his tutors to “define ambitious, yet attainable objectives. This motivates the students to work harder and pushes the boundaries of their learning potential.” The tutor’s job is to help the student to not only better understand a subject, but also make them more confident in what they know.
Mahs advises, “make sure the tutor and child are a good fit – they will be more successful if they get along and are able to communicate effectively.” It may take a few sessions for your student and the tutor to develop this type of relationship. If, after one or two sessions, there is still a lack of chemistry between them, it’s best to find a different tutor who has a different personality or uses a learning technique that your child responds to more positively.
Hiring a tutor doesn’t take mom and dad off the hook for helping their children. Making tutoring a priority and maintaining a regular tutoring schedule is key. Checking in with your child and the tutor on a regular basis is also important to see how well they are progressing and what more you can do to help.
Parents also need to set reasonable goals and tell the tutor their expectations from the beginning. How much help does your child need? Is better organization and note-taking the focus of the sessions? What are their strengths so that the tutor can better teach them? The clearer you are about the expectations, the better the tutor can help.
Another very important point to clarify with the tutor is how long you want the tutoring to continue. Some students may require long-term tutoring, while others will only need short-term support until they master a topic. It also might be time to hire a tutor when in preparation for American College Testing (ACT), International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) testing. These exams are specific in nature and at times require strategic and focused preparation.
Every child has the potential to succeed even when faced with academic challenges. Identifying their difficulties and getting the resources needed is the best advice for ensuring their continued educational success. Whether you decide to hire a tutor or not, remember not to put too much pressure on your child. Children learn at their own pace, but with time and proper guidance, they will become successful in school.
1. What strategies will you use to help my child?
2. How will you measure my child’s progress?
3. What do you expect from me?
4. How will you motivate my child?
5. Can you share with me some of your past tutoring successes?
Article written by Hanady Awada.
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