Michael was born in 1975. He was a sweet, easy, laid back baby and a perfect toddler. He was never any trouble, unlike his sister, whose demands knew no bounds. She was sent to school at age 4 ½ by her desperate parents. It was the right thing to do. She excelled, a straight A student from the moment she could write the letter “A”.
Michael – not so much. He did his best. But he hated school. Really. With a passion. And school was not exactly on best terms with him, either. He got into trouble. He was bullied. He was labeled “educationally subnormal”. They suspected dyslexia, but could not prove it with the tests available at the time. He simply wasn’t interested in spelling.
His parents were desperate. “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” his father used to ask. “Leave him alone!” said his Mom. He was her Little Man. Eventually, in desperation, they hired a tutor to help him. A professional, personable young man, who spent a lot of quality time with Michael, and finally, hit on a solution. A bit of English, a bit of Math, lots of positive reinforcement, and a LOT of gaming. His parents were horrified!
Michael is now about to turn 40. He is the IT director of a major global Internet services company in London. Google keeps knocking at his door. He loves what he does. He is forever grateful for the scraping pass in English and Math that he finally managed to obtain, that allowed him on to his first computing course in Junior College, which led to another, and another, until he graduated with his BS in Computer Science. Which opened the door to where he is now – loving his job and loving his life.
School is still a place of fond memories for many. “The best days of your life!” they will remind their skeptical offspring. But by its very nature, school has to take a one-size fits all approach. Teachers are adept at flexing the system to encompass as broad a variety of students as they are able. But while the Common Core Standards are attempting to address the academic demands of the modern world, the general education system is not intrinsically designed nor intended to individualize education, enabling every student to meet their full potential. It’s just simply not possible.
The last generation has seen a revolutionary change in the way we live and work. We are now competing in a global economy, and other countries are making English a priority in their already highly advanced education system. Coupled with greater mobility this is leveling the world playing field in the competition for employment in the most desirable fields.
Meanwhile, in California, classes are larger, teachers more stretched, and it is more difficult to get individualized attention for children at any level. This is especially true for those falling at either end of the spectrum – those falling behind or those who want to excel in a particular subject.
Parents are working harder for longer with less support as the competition for jobs increases. Perhaps they have had to move across the country leaving their support network behind, or perhaps they have left their own country behind altogether, to come to the United States. For whatever reason, it is becoming more and more difficult for parents to pick up the slack.
It is a well acknowledged fact that college educated adults earn more, have better opportunities, lead healthier happier lives, and are more likely to continue the trend to their children and grandchildren.
But these days, it’s not even enough to have “only” a 4.0 grade average! The top colleges and courses are looking for grades in excess of this, PLUS a candidate who has demonstrated all-round abilities – excelling in sports, social skills, contributing meaningfully to their community. And this is before we ever get as far as a job interview. Are you as exhausted reading this as I am writing it?!
Today’s in-demand graduates and employees are all about expanding horizons, breaking boundaries, thinking for themselves, exploring not just the “what” but the “why”, and usually the “who”, “when”, “where” and “how” as well.
So how do we bridge the gap between what school can do for us, and what the modern world demands of us?
Michael’s story illustrates beautifully how a good tutor can act not just as a teacher enabling a student to reach their full potential, but as a guide, lighting a pathway to where an individual wants to be, even when they are still too young to really see or understand the path ahead.
A professional tutor means that a child can learn at their own pace, not one dictated by the rest of the class, and can branch into fields that interest them, thereby nurturing their passions. They know not just how to teach, but how to motivate. Just like professional teachers, but with an individual focus on YOUR child.
A good tutor will create a positive circle of study, reinforcement and enjoyment, that will ultimately lead a student to want to study further. This in turn builds self-confidence, which will encourage students to explore further, take risks and expand their own horizons, all while under the guidance and support of a positive mentor. A positive mentor who understands how to guide them to their end goal, in such a way that they become the all-rounder the modern world is looking for.