Knowing how to choose the right support for your child’s success isn’t easy, even in the best of times. Stack a global pandemic and general public dissatisfaction with education on top, and you have an education market a bit oversaturated with wannabe tutors and coaches. But fear not, there are ways to thin the herd and find out exactly what you — and your student — need to succeed.
First, parents need to establish what kind of support a child needs and what educational professional is the best fit. The COVID-19 pandemic has created what we’re calling the wild west of educational support. Given the rising demand for after-school support and the current economic conditions, inexperienced freelancers are advertising their services all over the internet, social media, and even going door-to-door. Find a coach who has the right experience to support your student by asking these questions to potential support professionals:
- How long have you been working with students?
Be wary of people who have launched their business in the last 6-12 months. Be even more wary of solo practitioners and ask follow-up questions about insurance, references, reviews, etc.
- Do you have experience working with students who have learning differences such as ADHD, dyslexia, or auditory processing disorder?
This may or may not be important to you. However, if your student has learning differences, it is essential that a support professional have specific experience with learning differences as using the wrong approach can do harm to students’ self-esteem, motivation, and confidence.
- What school-wide technology platforms are you comfortable helping students navigate?
If they cannot comfortably discuss Google Classroom, Blackbaud, or the My School App, you should be concerned.
- What does the structure of your sessions look like?
Professionals have a plan. They solve the long-term problem. They treat the cause, not the symptom.
Second, know there are two main types of academic support you can get for your students outside the classroom: tutors and academic coaches. Each has its benefits, but asking one to do the other’s job will usually lead to frustration.
How to know if your child needs a tutor:
- Does your child struggle in a specific subject or skill? Say, English, balancing equations, or memorization?
- Is your student preparing for a comprehensive exam or a specific entrance exam, like the ISEE, SAT, or ACT?
- Is your student generally able to stay organized, meet deadlines, and sustain effort on projects?
If so, it sounds like your student would benefit most from a tutor. Tutors are specialists in the educational support world, focusing on specific subjects or “hard” skills. Especially in a time of rapid learning loss, tutors might be the right fit. It will be best if your student has a solid work ethic and the ability to get things done independently.
How to know if your child needs an academic coach:
- Does your student struggle across many subject areas?
- Does your student struggle with general academic skills like planning, studying, note-taking, or self-advocating?
- Does your student procrastinate, lose focus quickly, or have trouble finishing tasks?
- Does your student struggle with directions and preventing silly mistakes?
This is where the academic coach will bring the best results — most students in this category have the mental capacity to do the work, but they struggle with the “soft” skills of self-application, organization, and the processing of information. A good coach will know this going in and help prevent the frustration that these areas cause to students, parents, and teachers.
Of course, everyone’s case is different, and sometimes you need a coach with a strong specialization or a tutor with enough flexibility to tackle whatever your student needs!
Staying Ahead of the Game has a diverse staff and a dedicated team of advisors to help you talk through precisely what and who will fit your student best. We’ve been working in the field since 2006. We have specialists who can help you navigate the novel areas of online and hybrid learning without sacrificing quality education and individualized support. We’re always here to help!