What Tutoring Can Do
Often I get requests to address a student's problem subject, such as math or English. I refer to these as fix-it calls. There's nothing wrong with a fix-it call, but it fails to recognize the best reason for hiring a tutor.
A good tutor helps a student to take pleasure in work, usually becaus the student feels more confident; building confidence takes longer than a few sessions. When tutoring works, there's satisfaction for both tutor and student in seeing a homework assignment done well, and the tutoring time spent well. The student sees the reason for doing each step of a project; she learns about process and approach. Over time, the student practices the techniques of the tutor and learns to make them her own.
Think of tutoring as a laboratory in which the student is always refining one study skill or another. Whether the work is for second grade or twelfth grade, there is a skill that can and should be practiced -- summarizing a story, or developing a nuanced argument for a senior essay. At its essence, tutoring is the discovery of how a student works best, and a tutor's job is to encourage this habit of mind to observe, practice, and hone subtle skills.
In short, a tutor demonstrates a philosophy toward work. If a student subscribes to this program, then the true benefits of tutoring become possible: increased self-confidence and independence in school.
I've never met a high schooler who couldn't benefit from this time management exercise.
Using a pencil and paper, map out a typical week of homework. Leave space for five weeknights (including Sunday), and two weekend days. Give yourself a night off (most people don't want to work on Friday night).
Make a list of all subjects that assign homework, and estimate the amount of daily and weekly homework for each subject. In this way, figure out how much work you really have per day, and per week, on average. Take your time with this. Use the rule of 33 --assignments take one-third longer to complete than you usually think -- and make sure to allow for extra time to study concepts that require further review. Frequently, the best studying involves taking time to think about a larger idea, or taking time to clarify details that underlie the larger idea.
Now figure out how much time you actually spend doing homework each night. This is your reality check. Turn over your piece of paper and ask yourself what time you usually finish your work. Take a look at how you typically spend time, and decide if you are happy with the way you study. A picture should emerge, and it is this: how you would best like to do your homework.
Consider this possibility, if you do not already work in this way. When you get home from school, take a short break. Choose an activity that you will enjoy, such as sitting outside, but keep it short. Then begin homework and work steadily until it is done, stopping only for dinner. Take whatever free time you have only after all homework is done.
Watch your life improve.