As I scroll through Facebook or drive through communities on Long Island and see the proliferation of tutors and tutoring companies and agencies, I realize that it must be difficult for parents to make decisions based on what tutors say about themselves. Many will present as experts, but many are “experts” without portfolio. Here are some points to consider:
Experience – There is no substitute for years of practical knowledge and training; however, some educators stop learning and growing after they begin teaching. They teach exactly the same way as when they started. Look for someone who has years of experience and has tested out many teaching methods to determine the best of the best.
Training – Besides being a licensed teacher, has the tutor engaged in professional development beyond the basic requirements? Teachers are required to continue learning, but have they obtained certifications? Sitting through a presentation is different from actually applying what is taught.
Programs – Being trained in a program does not qualify someone to be able to know how to teach. Some people say they are using an “Orton-Gillingham” based program, but there are tons of children who do not need or benefit from O-G. Programs do not teach children, teachers do. No single approach can address the complex nature of reading difficulties. The prospective tutor should be knowledgeable and experienced beyond O-G. Does the tutor have a range of effective strategies beyond a program? Does the tutor know how to assess children for something other than the one program? The tutor should know how to work with the child rather than the child fitting into the program. Beware of the one-trick pony.
Generalist vs. Interventionist – A general classroom teacher will have general knowledge about a subject. As an elementary school teacher certified in both common branches (N-6th grade) and special education (K-12th grade), I taught math and science, but I am not a specialist in math and science. From years of teaching, I am confident in my ability to teach those subjects, but there is a tremendous difference between having general knowledge and specialized knowledge and training. Most teaching colleges only require 6 credits in reading, and those introductory courses are broad and theory-based. Even my Master’s degree in Reading did not prepare me for what I needed to know in working with the most challenging situations. There is a range of students requiring a thorough knowledge and a variety of effective strategies.
Certifications and References – Do not feel embarrassed to ask for state certifications, degrees, licenses, program certifications, and references. Tutors should be able to proudly show you credentials and furnish them upon request.
Cost – Tutoring can be expensive, but you are paying for someone’s expertise in a subject. You should know the person who is teaching your child. A name brand company or franchise does not tell you anything about the person who works directly with your child. A high school or college student will be less expensive, but expect there to be a difference. The expression, “Penny-wise, pound foolish” certainly applies. I have fallen into this trap myself on many occasions when looking for piano and guitar teachers for my son when he was a child. There was a huge difference between the people who did this for extra cash and the teachers who dedicated their lives to teaching their instruments.
Faith Borkowsky, Owner and Lead Educational Consultant of High Five Literacy and Academic Coaching, is a Certified Wilson Dyslexia Practitioner, is Orton-Gillingham trained, and has extensive training and experience in a number of other research-based, peer-reviewed programs that have produced positive gains for students with dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, ADD/ADHD, and a host of learning difficulties.
High Five Literacy and Academic Coaching is located in Plainview, Long Island.
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