Teacher Talk: How to Find a Tutor

Q: We had great plans this summer for getting our third-grader up to grade level in math. She didn’t work well with me, and we weren’t too consistent in our approach. Now, her teacher and I have decided that she needs tutoring before math gets even more difficult for her. How does one find a good tutor? Should I enroll her in a learning center?
— Uncertain

A: To ensure any kind of success in the future in math, your daughter has to learn how to add, subtract and multiply now. It is a good idea to start getting your child some help from a tutor. You also need to have the school investigate if there is a learning problem involved in her troubles with math.

Talk a little more to your child’s teacher before beginning the task of selecting a tutor. Find out if the teacher advises an individual tutor or a commercial learning center as the best choice. In either case, you will want the teacher to pinpoint as closely as possible the specific area or areas in math in which your child needs help. Ask if your child needs intensive help, remedial help or homework help.

Be sure to ask the teacher if there is a particular tutor with whom he or she has worked successfully. This is often the best way to find a tutor. The school may also have a list of tutors.

If you start your search for help at a commercial learning center, it is crucial that you find out if your child will be assigned permanently to one individual and how much time will be spent working with tutoring software. Having different tutors each week or spending too much time on the computer is not likely to produce the best results.

If you are considering a home tutor, you will want to make sure the tutor is able to work at the time of day your child is ready to learn, is affordable, can motivate your child, has tutoring experience and is liked by your child.
Of course, you will need to check the qualifications of the tutor. They do not have to be licensed teachers but should have some successful experiences to share with you.

Finally, you will know that you have chosen wisely if your daughter’s math work improves and she is eager to attend tutoring sessions. If things do not work out well, do not hesitate to look for another tutor.

Q: My son will be 3 next month. He is in an early-intervention program and works with a speech therapist twice a month. I think he talks fine; however, my mother and others believe he is difficult to understand. He loves to watch educational television. Will listening to TV help with his speech?
— Uncertain

A: Your son is being seen by a speech therapist. This person should have solid suggestions about ways you can help him improve his speech. In fact, therapists often ask parents to do some speech activities with their children.

Having your preschooler sit in front of the TV is not going to turn him into a good speaker or even listener. For either to occur, there needs to be interaction between speaker and listener. Here are some of our suggestions for helping all young children become good speakers: Talk to them while doing housework, driving in the car, shopping in the grocery store or whenever you are together. As soon as you get even a glimmer of response from them, respond enthusiastically so they know that you are interested in what they are saying and they will be encouraged to speak even more. Because young children learn best through direct experiences, you will want them to have a wide variety of experiences to increase their vocabularies. This remains true through the school years.

Q: Where can I go beyond talking to people in my children’s school district when I have questions about federal law, policy and initiatives?
— Need Answers

A: The easiest thing to do is to go online to the Department of Education’s Web site at http://answers.ed.gov. This site has the answers to more than 100 commonly asked questions, as well as links to additional information both from the Department of Education and other sources.

Parents should send questions to Dear Teacher, in care of Charlotte Parent, Box 395, Carmel, IN 46082-0395 or e-mail dearteacher@excite.com.