lt usually ramps up around early November. The phone starts ringing with calls from anxious parents and frantic students after the first few tests come back, or that Progress Report goes home.
“Do you offer math tutoring?” “My son is struggling with reading.” “I’m worried about my grades in Chemistry.” And each year we hear the same thing. “We’re so happy we found you. We only wish we had started sooner!”
Now, November is a still a great time to start tutoring. It’s early enough in the year, and there’s lots of time to get back on course (pun intended). Students can review shaky concepts, and get help with current topics. And they can still establish better study routines to make sure they are in good shape for the rest of the year. But too many kids and parents still view tutoring as a band-aid solution; a quick fix to stop the bleeding and ease the pain.
Of course, we’re all for easing the pain, and we’ll do whatever we can to help our students succeed. But in our many years of tutoring, we’ve noticed something. The kids who’ve had the most success are the ones who take the long view.
Good Students vs Good Learners
Students who do best in school understand that a short-term solution will take them through the next test, exam, or essay. But establishing good routines, proactive study habits, and an active role in their own learning is the difference between being a good student and a good learner.
- Good students take notes. Good learners figure out how they learn best and design their study approach accordingly. Some of us are auditory learners and do best if we focus on listening intently in class, then following up with summary notes. Others are more visual, and benefit from drawing diagrams to help understand a concept. Spending the time figuring out how you learn best and which strategy to use is key to meaningful study.
- Good students answer the questions they know. Good learners ask the questions they don’t know. A good learner understands that sometimes we make mistakes. This does not mean we’re dumb, or that we’ve failed. No one likes being wrong, but it is often through our mistakes and failures that we learn the most. This is a big mental hurdle for many kids, especially high achievers who feel the pressure to be “perfect” all the time. We say, take the chance, ask the question, then ask another question until you get it. Chances are there’s at least one other person in class thinking the same thing!
- Good students memorize information. Good learners make knowledge their own – It’s not enough to just take in new knowledge. It has to connect in meaningful ways with what you already know. This is how we build a solid knowledge structure and foundation for future learning.
- Good learners are good teachers – Being able to teach someone else is a sure sign that you’ve understood something well. Good learners know this and take the opportunity to teach others. They can translate, paraphrase, and find examples that make what they know meaningful to other learners.
- Good learners recognize that learning isn’t always fun – Despite the efforts of today’s educators, the reality is that sometimes learning is just hard work. There is not always an easy trick or shortcut. In fact, learning should be a little uncomfortable. Developing the stamina to push through that discomfort to reach understanding is a habit that pays off.
- Good learners get help when they need it. Learning happens everywhere. We can seek it out from teachers, parents, friends, the endless stream of Youtube videos, and our own investigation. Sometimes though, we need an outside perspective and the time to explore concepts through a different lens. A skilled tutor offers not only knowledge and experience but a perspective on you as a learner that only 1:1 attention can uncover. Yes, we’re a bit biased here, but we’ve seen it so many times, we truly believe this.
- Good students study before a test. Good learners have long-term goals, and a plan to get there. Preparing for a test is a great short-term goal. But having clear long-term goals in mind, and an established learning plan to achieve them is one of the key differences between a good student and a good learner. Good learners not only know what’s on the test; they understand why they’re studying it, and how it fits into the larger picture.
We can’t be all of these things all of the time. As teachers and lifelong learners, we understand that. But we strive to be better learners every day, and we have seen the results, in ourselves, and in our students. S0 call us in November, by all means. But think of tutoring as the first step in a lifelong commitment to learning.