The proportion of time ‘AT’ school Is NOT the same as being ‘IN’ School and other measurement issues

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article/article?f=/c/a/2011/05/20/MN3P1JHC83.DTL

This article was difficult to digest on many levels – some of the comments were hilarious, some were so to the point honest it was like a gunshot going through and out the other side and some demonstrated the absolute magnitude to which people are finally understanding TEACHERS can not control the education of a student when parents are not parenting.

As a tutor, I get to cherry pick the jobs I wish to take on. This is a luxury for me.  I also try to, within reason, keep my fees low so I am available to a wide range of students as there are many students/parents who know the value of an education and the cost of tutoring is beyond their grasp.  Clearly the students who can ‘afford’ me most likely don’t need me.   I interview the student and the parents informally to make sure it is a good fit all the way around and ask some important questions that often stymie parents:  (1) What are your childs goals? (2) What are your goals in 1 week, 1 month, 6 months? (3) Is this tutoring to ‘pass the class’ or is this tutoring to learn, most especially when I am discussing algebra (4) Are you willing to commit to assisting your child schedule their time such that there may be less TV and/or computer time in order to get through the studying? (5) Are you willing to commit to a consistent schedule?  (6) What type of feedback do you wish to have from me? (7) In certain situations I need to ask if the parents want me to meet with the teacher (this is fee intensive although it can have outstanding outcomes with the right family).

If parents seem to not understand questions 3-5, I have to think long and hard if this is a job I wish to take on because at the end of the day, no matter how hard I work, it is not going to be enough to benefit a student I see for two hours a week and so change and improvement is inherent on other factors.  This is shared with parents.  I tell parents my being at their house is not the same as the child being focused in and doing more than the one or two hours of tutoring each week. I explain that tutoring works best when everyone is on board.  Amazingly, only a small amount – say 35-50% of parents get it and so I have the opportunity to work with the cream of the crop of students who (1) want to learn (2) often have learning differences or are differently abled – autism spectrum, ADHD, cochlear implants, ESL, auditory processing, etc. and (3) parents who value education.  At the end of the day, I have a great deal of satisfaction that I did something wonderful to help a child learn.

Believe it or not, most of the parents who hire me are not relatively well to do, relatively uneducated themselves and live modestly  and are not all white or Asian as the stereotype goes.  The difference is these parents WANT their child to succeed and put forth  the effort to work  with me and their child for success to happen.  Am I perfect? No….are there times when things take longer than anyone expected? yes…..Do the students improve? I would say 95% do and when I or the parents do not see success we part ways early enough in the game for the parents to find a different tutor.

All of the above three paragraphs is very different from what happens in a public school classroom where I would be lucky if 35% of the parents are on board in any reasonable way (this means both parents who don’t care and parents who care too much are not in the 35%).  I would be exhilirated if 50% of my students came to school with the intention of learning (both mentally and physically, such as having a good breakfast with protein in it).  Over the top would be if there was a situation where the kid was not ‘kept’ at school and warehoused somehow for part of the day so the school could get the ADA……..this is where the differenc of AT and IN play a huge role and being on board is not always so transparent. So, in the public school system, getting the child to school is only a very minute part of the issue. Engagement is a huge effort and there are some kids, and all teachers know what I mean, that we are thankful don’t show up to school.

None of this is a free pass for parents not to parent, however, it does point a magnifying glass at the large problem of willingness to put in effort and willingness to follow through – this comes from the home.  If OUSD thinks for one minute having the student AT school solves the problem, they are sorely mistaken.  This is not even the real problem.  Until OUSD and every other school district gets to the point of addressing the problem – education is a mind set, there is going to be a chronic lack of success at all schools.  Sometimes having a student AT school merely means they are off the street and being looked after – it does not mean they are learning. It is of great importance that our state superintendent look at the issue at hand, not the issue that merely generates ADA.

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