No parent wants to see his child struggle in school. Be it basic reading, pre-calculus or some subject in between, tutoring or other out-of-school instruction can help.
"We see that (needing a tutor) as an asset, not as being in trouble," said Paulette Harris, the founder and director of Augusta State University's Literacy Center, which offers reading and other instruction to kindergartners through adults. "If a student needs help, it's not a bad thing. Most times we're just trying to keep them on an even keel."
With high teacher-pupil ratios, individual learning styles and demanding curricula, extra help is often necessary and can provide pupils with a learning role model who can champion their academic success.
"A tutor is like a coach. We call our tutors tutor-mentors ... Having someone to say you're doing a good job outside of family and school ... to say you're doing great at this or you need to work on that a little, makes them work harder," Ms. Harris said.
"It continues to motivate. Studies show a child's first and most important teacher is the parent, but the parent may not be most important tutor. Sometimes it's better to get someone outside the family to help with the child."
When it comes to helping pupils, figuring out what type of help they really need is vital, said Misty Gleason, the director and owner of Sylvan Learning Center in Augusta.
Some pupils might only need extra practice in their coursework, which is what a lot of tutoring services provide, but other pupils could be missing essential building blocks, she explained.
"If a student is struggling in fifth-grade math, it might just be some of those concepts are tricky or it might be because of something they didn't master on the third-grade level," she said.
That's where diagnostic tests come in. Programs like Sylvan's usually test children on several different competencies to gauge their strengths and weaknesses.
"For us it's not opening the textbook and working in there, it's about finding the problems, identifying skill gaps and filling them if there are any," she said. "If the child is just beginning to show trouble in one subject or some issue, if it's just starting, then an assessment can help tell if a tutorial program is appropriate or if it's a background issue."
Getting a tutor or enrolling in a learning program isn't just for those who are behind in subjects, either.
"Particularly during the summer, if students are doing fine, they still need to keep at it so they don't regress," Dr. Harris said. "When you take months away from learning, and studies show this, you can actually forget some things. We feel strongly that even if the child is doing OK, it's still important to seek help."
Djabriz Bing, a literacy center tutor and Gracewood Elementary School kindergarten teacher, agreed.
"Things like this are good to get ahead," she said while helping fifth-grader Senite Love learn sixth-grade language concepts. "It can help students bridge between one year and the next and help them retain things, especially for kindergartners. They lose so much between then and first grade. I definitely recommend some tutoring for enrichment.
Regardless if it is for remediation or enrichment, outside academic help can result in more than just high marks.
"It builds their confidence," Mrs. Gleason said. "The majority of students that come in are defeated in some way, on all different levels. You have some feeling defeated for making straight D's and F's or some for making A's and struggling. Programs like these can give them independence, and they get that chance for praise and reward."
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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