Sylvan Learning Centre client Tiana

FAMILY: Tutoring can make a big difference for students

Extra help can keep academic challenges from getting out of control

November is often the time of year when students start to struggle: the novelty of the new year has worn off and the countdown to winter holidays has begun.

If midterm results and teacher feedback show students have challenges in certain subjects, it can be a good time to think about engaging a tutor. And this year in particular, with an accelerated schedule to make up for time lost to the teachers’ strike, some kids are in greater danger of falling behind.

“There definitely is a crunch going on this year, especially with the high school students,” says Mike Lander, director of Sylvan Learning’s West Shore centre.

“There’s a lot of need for extra tutoring sessions throughout the schools.”

Three groups of students can benefit from tutoring, he says. Those who are behind, those who are doing well and want to maintain that level, and the “get ahead” students who may not be getting the challenges they need from regular classroom hours.

With students who are struggling, it’s important to remember they may need to go back to earlier foundations to rectify a current gap in their learning. “A student may be struggling with Grade 6 math, for example, and they may need to go back to Grade 4 concepts,” Lander says.

Whether parents decide to use a centre like Sylvan or go with a private tutor, he says, it’s imperative parents know who’s going to be working with their kids.

“I would always suggest having a conversation with them. Learn what their philosophy is, and you do want to make sure that you’re working with somebody that is reputable,” he says.

Also vital to tutoring success is a regular schedule, with time slotted in just like for hockey or band practices. “Our most successful students are coming three or four hours a week. With just one hour a week, you’re really not making any progression.”

Academic struggles can get lost in the maelstrom of sports, extracurricular activities, or things happening at home, but it’s vital that struggles are dealt with before they balloon into larger and larger struggles.

“Often education gets put on the back burner, but it’s so important,” Lander says. “It’s the most important factor for their economic future.”