Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How Was My First Day Tutoring?

How was my first day tutoring, you ask?  Well, I'm so glad you asked.  It was great.

The kid I'm tutoring, I'll call him TK, is 15.  He's very likeable.  He's articulate, seems pretty bright, and at times even seemed insightful.  Now, I won't fault a teenager for lack of insight.  Teens are often pretty un-insightful.  It's actually pretty developmentally appropriate for teens, although it can certainly drive parents and educators crazy at times.

However, at one point I asked him how he gets along with his teachers and he told me, "I try to be really respectful to my teachers all the time.  If you're respectful, they sometimes go a little easier on you or give you a little extra help.  If you're disrespectful, they don't do that."  Now, that is pretty insightful for a teenager.  When I was a social worker, I spent I-don't-even-know-how-many anger management sessions trying to explain that concept to teens that were in trouble for things like beating up their teachers and threatening to blow up their schools.

Then at one point he was telling me that sometimes he doesn't feel very motivated to do his schoolwork and I asked him why he thought that was.  He said he wasn't sure.  He told me that his dad thinks it's because when he was in middle school, some of his teachers graded him unfairly and that his dad thinks that made him not feel like trying anymore.  That is what his dad told me when I met with him.  TK said he's not sure if that's really the reason, though.  It might be but he isn't sure.  I thought that was kind of... well, maybe insightful isn't the right word.  But it was interesting that he is aware of what his dad thinks is the problem and that he's considered it carefully and hasn't just grabbed onto it as an excuse.

I asked him a bunch of questions and he seemed to be answering honestly and thoughtfully.  A couple times he seemed surprised by a question and said, "I need to think about that for a minute."  And then he thought for a minute and then tried to answer as clearly as he could.  A couple times he gave rather vague answers and then asked, "Do you want me to be more specific?"  In which case I said, "If you can be more specific, that would be good."  And then he would elaborate on his answer.  I think he's pretty articulate.  He seems able to express himself pretty easily.

I asked him if he thought his teachers like him and he said yes, he knows they do.  Now, dad thinks the teachers dislike the kid.  I did not tell him dad told me that.  But I found it very interesting that dad thinks that and that TK thinks the opposite.  What I'm thinking is that the teachers don't dislike TK, the teachers dislike the dad.  It's possible TK just can't tell that they don't like him, but he doesn't seem socially inept in that way.  I think he'd know.  Now, it's also possible that the teachers don't like him and he knows it but just didn't want to admit it to me.  He might feel embarrassed about it.  But he seemed pretty comfortable telling me how his grades are really poor and other stuff that he might feel embarrassed about, so I think he was probably being honest about the teachers liking him.

All I did today was talk to him and ask a bunch of questions.  I wanted to get to know him and to establish a rapport and to let him know what he can expect from me.  Like, he can expect me to treat him like an intelligent being, he can expect me to care about his thoughts and opinions, he can expect me to be respectful towards him, he can expect me to support him in his goals, etc.  I feel like that went very well.

Together we were able to identify a couple of things that might be helpful.  I noticed him fidgeting a lot and asked if he felt he could focus better when he was moving and he said yes, definitely.  I mentioned that some people find it helpful to have one of those stress balls to squeeze while they work and he really liked that idea.  So tomorrow I am going to go find a stress ball for him.  Hopefully Walmart has them. 

I also told him that I'd read an article recently that was written for adults with ADHD and that it suggested sitting on one of those exercise balls while you work.  I wasn't sure what a teenager would think of that.  I thought he might think that seemed too silly or weird.  But he actually thought it sounded like fun.  I've been thinking of buying one for myself, to help strengthen my back muscles.  Maybe I'll go ahead and get one and then take it with me to tutoring one day and let him try it out and see if he likes it.

I had a good day and I'm looking forward to continuing to work with him.


  1. Awesome! You sound like such a good tutor, more like a therapist than anything. You have a lot of useful skills. I'm sure you will be a lot of help to this student.

    1. One of the things dad and I both agreed on as a goal for tutoring was for the kid to have positive experiences related to learning and to succeed at the work we do. We also agreed that we want him to pass his classed, and TK verbalized that as a goal, too, but none of us care too much right now if he gets great grades. If he gets an A, well, that would be super, but it's not necessary. But we would all like it if he did not have to repeat the same classes next year. But even more importantly, we want him to have positive experiences because school has been a pretty negative thing for him thus far.