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January 19, 2013

Tutors, tutors everywhere

Fifth grade3

By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor

One of my favorite pastimes is picking up on telltale signs of an era or a generation. Like ironically nerdy glasses on hipsters. Or "mom jeans" on young baby boomers.

And I enjoy the generational tics you can’t see, too, like millennials’ need for praise that my friends (yes, we’re Gen X’ers – and we wear our bad-idea tattoos like a badge of honor) like to joke about.

Last month, the New York Times pointed out a new hallmark of Gen Z (aka "Gen Me") that I think is going to stick: tutors as a mainstay of a normal education. When I was in school, I had a tutor to help me learn French – but only because it wasn’t offered at my school and we were moving to Montreal. Otherwise, tutoring wasn’t a common affair. When a kid was failing – or at least falling behind – that’s when tutors were called to the rescue.

Does every child have a tutor now?

Now, though, tutors are much more ubiquitous: every kid seems to have one. And their parents are grateful that the tutors help keep the kids on track and their grades up. I didn’t recognize this as a trend, and then…

Thwap! I read Abby Ellin’s article “Some Tutors Are Shouldering a Wider Load.” 

The article begins with a compelling anecdote about a college freshman at NYU struggling to juggle life in the city, register for classes, get books, and the like. There’s no doubt that period of life is hectic and difficult – and more so for this girl because she’s a student athlete. But her mom’s reaction surprised me: worried that her daughter was foundering, she hired a tutor.

"Ms. Borbridge [the tutor] spent about 30 hours helping Ms. Barnes [the freshman] manage her schedule, pick classes and generally feel more comfortable in her new life," Ellin writes.

But that’s not all; the tutoring persists. "They are in touch daily by phone or e-mail, and work together in person anywhere from 15 to 22 hours a week."

Tutor, or life coach?

In this case – and in many cases, it seems – the tutor isn’t just helping with homework or a specific subject. Instead, it’s ongoing support in all subjects and, "also a source of general life support," Ellin writes.

Ellin quotes Dr. Sandi Ayaz, executive director of the Florida-based National Tutoring Association, who describes the phenomenon a different way: today’s tutors are, "more academic coaches," she says. And these academic coaches start – and may never stop – working with the kids on schoolwork and other things – like life skills.

One mom said it transferred the role of homework nag to an outsider, so she could focus on a more nurturing role for her child. One tutor said he’s like an unofficial counselor.   

In some ways this trend shouldn’t come as a surprise; this generation of kids has become accustomed to helpfully hovering helicopter parents since day one. Still, isn’t a little angst and confusion when you leave home for college a normal part of growing up? Should "Gen Me" be spared even that slight discomfort?

The director of a Manhattan-based tutoring company said that any stigma with tutoring has all but disappeared. That’s wonderful, but should we be worried about the flip side: the prevalence of tutoring as an ongoing practice? Does it make for yet another haves versus have-nots divide in education?

A 19-year-old student quoted in Ellin’s story said she, "never hid the fact that she had a tutor, partly because 'you were lucky if you had one.'"

Is your child lucky enough to have a tutor? Is this a trend you embrace? 


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Its definately the have verse the have nots...do you see the cost per hour for such tutors? It is an extreme hardship for a middle income family to have to pay a private tutor to teach what is suppose to be taught in school by already paid teachers!

We are far from wealthy,but were prepared to sacrifice to send our children to private school. We soon discovered private could not give what the public school did so we chose public school fully expecting to finance additional academic opportunities. Given the size of classrooms, the burdens on teachers and where they are expected to focus their attention, my children do not get what they need to maximize school. I would have no trouble "investing"in their education. I can't do it all and neither can a school. We can make money at what we do best, I am willing to spend money for what someone else can do better. I think it is the best of private and public school at a fraction of the cost.

Definitely has the feel of 'first world problems.' I didn't get my son a tutor, nor will I be getting my daughter one. She's at the top of her class, but when she needs help she studies with friends or asks for help from teachers.

Way too much money is going to the 'tutoring services' industry by scared parents. I'm not buying in.

I hired a tutor, who was a moonlighting sixth grade teacher, for my struggling sixth grader during his first year at an extremely challenging college prep (charter) school. It was well worth the money spent. She would write most of his notecards for exams and quiz him. She would also help keep his papers organized. She came twice per week during mid-terms and finals. I am not wealthy by any means, but I do make sacrifices for my children's education, as there's no going back to fix it later. It's been two years and I'm thinking of hiring a tutor again to help the same child, as I have two more students who require my time. It can be such a lifesaver (timesaver) for the family.

By the way, I'm not a scared parent, I'm an exhausted parent. I work full time outside of the home as an overworked RN. My husband is a full-time nursing student, and we have 3 children at home who need a little organizational help as well as guidance with sifting through mounds of required reading and research. Sometimes, it's a personal decision as far as how far you're willing to go to prove you deserve the big "S" on your chest. I happily wear mine, but I know my limits. I'm just plain tired and I could use some downtime when I get home between 8-8:30pm several days a week. Knowing my children are prepared for their exams and their HW is packed in their bags, puts my mind at ease and I will gladly pay for the service. Just getting dinner on the table is an accomplishment in my home. Don't judge us from the other side of the fence. Come over and bring a homemade dish to share. We've earned it.

I totally agree with this that now almost every child has one tutor. It had became a trend. Every child has its own learning style, a tutor can embrace that style and teach in a way they fully understand. The personalized touch enables children to feel confident and secure.

I am strongly considering hiring a high school student to "tutor" my 7 yr old (2nd grade) daughter over the summer break. Her grades are good, but I don't want her to loe everything she has learned over the summer. The beginning of the school year is tough enough without having to re-teach everything. I have to be very attentive with her homework every night to keep her prepared and her grades up, but it is exhausting! Also, summer is so unstructured that it's difficult to form a routine for studying. I really think that an outsider will have better luck getting my daughter to cooperate and practice her academic skills as opposed to me (an over-worked, impatient, perfectionist mom). Yes, I admit that I may bea helicopter mom. I may also have overly high expectations for my daughter, but I just want to give her the best chance at a happy and successful life as I can. Growing up, I would have LOVED having a tutor; my mother knew I struggled with homework every night, but was unable to help me. I volunteerily stayed after school numerous times to ask my teacher to look over my homework or re-explain a math problem. I pushed myself to work harder, spending literally hours studying in order to maintain straight-A's. Opposite of me, when my sister began to struggle with schoolwork, she simply gave up and quit doing her homework all-together. It is important to me that my daughter know the value of education and know that if she needs help, she will get it.

If you need a really good tutoring agency that listens to your needs try using Tutors For Less. My son received tutoring when he started to slip in grade 6. He was getting disorganized, not prepared well for Tests and generally not doing very well in his overall marks. The sent us a tutor that organized him and became his mentor. My son is a neat freak now. A little obsessive but wow did his self esteem and grades improve because of the tutoring. I think it was how she taught him to prioritize that really helped his self esteem. We had my son tutored until he was self-sufficient which was in the middle of grade 8. I know they are a large agency that is Canada wide. They operate in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, and Vancouver.

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