Sometimes now, I tutor children. Good teachers in a good school do a good job, but sometimes parents want to make sure that their children get a little more instruction than they get in school. Or they worry that vacations will undo the good the school has done. So a child comes to me to write, read, figure things out – whatever we decide is the best way to spend time.
Hiring someone to do what your tax dollars are supposed to pay for, or, from a child’s point of view, spending time after school doing what your friends only do in school, raises a few issues. I tossed around a few ways to examine these issues, and decided to describe four points of view – two parents’ perspectives and two children’s perspectives.
The first parent is not critical of the school. Teachers have done what could be done to help the child learn. The child needs more instruction than the school day and school year allow. The tutor hired will consult with the teacher to learn which approaches and materials have been used, which have been successful, and what the teacher recommends. Whether or not this parent can afford a tutor, the needs of the child are more important than anything.
The second parent wonders why the school has not done its job, and is annoyed. Teachers get paid a lot of money (from this parent’s perspective), and ought to do the job they’re paid to do. The child in question is not deficient; it’s the school system that is deficient, and the school system ought to pay for the tutor.
The first child thinks about the other kids, who get to have fun after school. It’s no fair. Just because they learn more easily, they get to go swimming, play with their friends, watch TV, play video games. But this child has to sit with a teacher after school. And when there are no other kids around, you can’t get away with anything. I wish I were smarter, thinks this child.
The second child wants to do better in school, and hopes that the extra help will make that possible. This child has already been helped to feel competent, and realizes that he/she just needs extra time and extra instruction. It would be nice not to need that, but since it is needed, it’s a good thing it’s happening.
As teachers, parents, and tutors, we do what we can. Our children are doing what they can. I’ve never felt right about giving a child an unsatisfactory effort grade; if they don’t seem to be trying, I think at least they’re trying to try. I believe that we’re all in this together.

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