Closing the Achievement Gap

Posted

In our in-person and online sessions, we have the pleasure of tutoring students from across South Jersey and the United States. Even though there is a push for American public schools to have the same educational opportunities and core standards for all children, there is still a discrepancy in how and what students learn based on where they live. When a third grade student in a wealthy suburb of South Jersey with a small class size struggles to grasp long division, her teacher may be able to fully address her needs within the class time or provide after school help. However, another third grader, equally hardworking and just a few towns over, may be in a school with larger class sizes and fewer resources. Perhaps, this student’s teacher is trying to juggle a classroom of dozens of children and isn’t able to address everyone’s questions before she has to move on to the next concept. Both students have dedicated teachers who are probably in a district that is striving toward state standards; however, many complicated factors impact a student’s success.

Our educational system in the United States is a product of years of redlining, discrimination, and funding issues. There’s an unfortunate fact that based on where children live, they may be in better performing public schools that challenge them more. An “A” student in one school district may find himself struggling to make the honor roll if he were to transfer to a high school less than 20 minutes away. How do we, as educators, help bridge the gap for students who are being adversely affected by generations of inequality? At TTLLC, we strive to teach students the fundamental skills that will help them succeed in the classroom and globally.

Two key benefits of one-on-one tutoring are that we are not pressured to teach toward a test and that students are not graded. We get to help students hone valuable skills until they feel confident enough to move to the next level. For example, if a high schooler needs help with her literature essay but is struggling with distinguishing sentences from fragments, we have the opportunity to teach her the foundational skills she will use for her current class and for the rest of her academic career. For every student, we focus on the foundations they’ll need not just to do well in one course, but to be prepared down the line as well.

There are many educators and school district administrators working tirelessly to close academic achievement gaps every day, and we all share the common belief that every student deserves the same educational opportunities. As an organization, our priority is to provide students from all communities with additional and affordable support they need to thrive.

 

By Tailored Tutoring’s Writing Staff

I Am Enough

Posted

At Tailored Tutoring LLC, our students have diverse personalities, backgrounds, and learning styles. Our priority is to celebrate our students’ identities through education. With that goal in mind, our curriculum highlights books and assignments that prominently feature characters and people with a variety of identities. One book our students really enjoy is I Am Enough by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo. I Am Enough is a colorful and inspiring tribute to diversity and community. This book for younger readers includes girls of different shades, sizes, religions, and ability levels. After reading I Am Enough, your child or student may want to talk more about what individuality and identity means to them. Even if children do not have the same vocabulary and language for some of these terms, they can see differences between themselves, their peers, and their families. In a world that sometimes equates differences with value, I Am Enough sends the positive message that our identities are what make us so incredible and that in every single way, they deserve to be celebrated!

By Tailored Tutoring’s Writing Staff

Diverse Learners Speak Diverse Languages

Posted

With language, people have the ability to communicate an array of complex ideas and emotions. But when our use of language goes beyond the need to express our thoughts, things can get murky. Based on how people speak, others make assumptions about ethnicity, socioeconomic class, and education, and these assumptions can translate into prejudice and oppression. Because of a long history of European colonization and cultural erasure, standardized English is expected and, in some places, demanded. In the United States, some people see a lack of adherence to a certain grammar code as a sign of ignorance or failing intelligence. But the history of language—because of its malleability, the United States’ thriving immigrant populations, and the de facto and de jure practices barring people of color from educational opportunities—is complicated.

 

One of the amazing things about our students and a strength of our organization is the diversity of languages they bring through our front door. In our one-on-one sessions, we encourage our students to speak their home language. If they were speaking to their mother or grandmother, how would they answer this essay question or explain this mathematical concept? We want our students to know that shame about their home language and how it differs from standardized English is a tool that people with power have used for generations to subjugate and malign others. We educate students to understand why certain languages and dialects are valorized and why others may be seen as lower class.

 

We strive to teach our students that how they speak is another aspect of their identity they can celebrate and share. We teach them to adapt their writing to the situation but an essay doesn’t mean they don’t bring their own personality, background, and voice to the page. What do we lose when students feel less smart because they don’t know the ins and outs of gerunds or split infinitives? What can we gain when students feel comfortable enough to bring their own approaches to language into the classroom and into their academics?

 

By Tailored Tutoring’s Writing Team

Teaching Should be an Act of Love

Posted

I’ve been teaching others to read for 30 years. At first, my role as an educator started with my younger siblings. I’d read word problems to them and teach them the complicated phonics of independent reading books. Through long division and bedtime stories, I not only educated my siblings, I got to know them as individuals. I learned that my brother loved to read about games, that my younger sister enjoyed mysteries, and my second eldest sibling couldn’t get enough of fantasy. When they read things they loved, they couldn’t put the books down.

 

When I had children of my own, I remembered the lesson my siblings taught me, educating shouldn’t be punishing, burdensome, or discouraging. It should be an act of love. When I sat with my own children, we read what they loved. We navigated through the mazes of libraries and bookstores, searching for video game guides and the newest YA series. And when I sit down with every student at Tailored Tutoring, I bring that same philosophy. When I educate, I have the opportunity to share what I love, but I also get the absolute pleasure to learn my students, too. Their passions, their concerns, their dreams. And that is why Tailored Tutoring is here. That is why we teach.

Having Difficult Conversations with Children

Posted

 

When I tutor, some of my students’ questions and thoughts genuinely surprise me. At ages as young as four-years-old, they wonder about money, politics, religion, and culture. One student, barely taller than the table we worked at, looked at me with sad eyes and said unprompted, “I don’t like my skin.” She explained that no one else in her family was as brown as her, and I could see how deflated she felt. We spent the rest of the lesson talking about her beauty and the prejudice of colorism. I talked with her mother after the session. “Yes,” she said with a deep sigh. “We’ve been having a lot of conversations lately. I don’t feel ready.”

As a parent and an educator, I know that feeling of being caught off-guard. On many occasions, my children have approached me with questions whose answers I could only fumble through. But there were some difficult conversations that I knew I wanted to address with my children early on. I wanted to talk to them about their heritage as multigenerational Black Americans. I wanted to tell them about slavery and equity. Even though my language when talking to my children about American history was simplified, I didn’t want to be indirect.

I remember my own elementary education and how textbooks erased so much of American history. And while I understand the desire to keep children shielded from the negativity of life, honest and open conversations about race, prejudice, and anything else do not have to be gruesome or scarring. Especially during the holiday season when discussions about the violence of colonization and indigenous people’s suffering is reduced to pictures of headdresses and pilgrim hats, it’s important to speak with our children directly. We can tell them that people have been hurt and continue to be hurt because of prejudice. That showing compassion and kindness toward other people doesn’t just mean pretending not to see different skin tones. We should tell them how for generations, people haven’t received the fair treatment they deserve.

Children are capable of hearing conflict and having difficult discussions. They hear them everyday in their TV shows, at school, and at home. I can’t say the right time to talk to children about these challenging topics because parents and guardians know their children best, but I do know that children, like adults, can learn and grow from speaking openly. I know that they think about prejudice before they sometimes have the language to express it, and I hope that as adults, we can help guide them through these bumps even when we’re still uncertain ourselves.

By Shawn R. Jones

 

Client Testimonial

Posted

Dear Tailored Tutoring,

Thank you for helping my daughter prepare for 6th grade at her new private junior high school with a rigorous math component. You provided her with a thorough assessment and filled in the gaps to prepare her at an advanced level! Most importantly, you gave the confidence and preparation that she needed to soar!

She’s loving her experience at her school, and she did amazingly well in her Algebra 1 class. In fact, she decided on her own accord to take Geometry (at a premier private high school over the summer) and now, because she’s so much more advanced in math than her peers, she’s on the 8th grade track. She is also hoping to start her own tutoring company for kids in our complex!

Your brilliant, patient and fun tutors are fantastic! I also want to thank you for making our geographic and time zone differences work. It was a seamless connection!

She just asked to come back to Tailored Tutoring again this semester because she loves the extra support and personalized attention! Thank you!!!!

 

~ Asha M.

Teaching Children to Ask Questions

Posted

One of the most intimidating tasks for quiet children in the classroom can be participation. From elementary school to college, students are encouraged to speak up and share their questions and opinions in large group discussions. However, for various reasons, not all students feel as comfortable divulging their thoughts. A middle schooler with social anxiety may hesitate to speak in front of her peers. A college student with dyslexia may feel uncomfortable reading aloud. A student targeted by bullies may not want to bring attention to himself. As educators, parents, and adults, how can we advocate and encourage children to share their voices? Here are three suggestions for helping students step into the discussion:

 

  1. Practice at home or in a lower-stakes environment: Sometimes the classroom, filled with opinionated and boisterous students, can be an intimidating space. Try an environment where the student can settle down and feel relaxed.
  2. Be a model for your student:Modeling uncertainty by asking questions about things you don’t understand communicates to your student that it’s normal and healthy for people not to have all the answers. Consider walking your student through your thought process as you try to problem solve.
  3. Ask students questions about something they feel confident in: Whether it’s their favorite television show or video game, ask your students to explain something they’re passionate about. It’s typically easier for students to open up and speak uninhibitedly when they are interested and excited to answer questions.

 

 

In every classroom, there are a diversity of learning styles and personalities. Some students may be more introverted than others and it’s vital that they know more reserved personalities shouldn’t be punished. However, when they do want to assert their opinions, educators and families may be able to help prepare them to join the conversation.

By The Tailored Tutoring Writing Team

 

Starting the New Year Strong

Posted

At the beginning of January, children return to the classroom refreshed and, honestly, probably a little reluctant. For high schoolers and college students, January may mean exams. For elementary students, they could be returning to material that they haven’t seen since before break. How can your student start the year off strong?

 

  1. Check in with the teacher: You’ve probably seen a progress report from the teacher with grades and comments before break, but January can also be a good time to follow up with your child’s teacher to see how you two can work as a team in a way that best benefits your student. If you need clarification or more details about what a teacher wrote in a progress report or explained at a busy back-to-school night, the start of January is an opportunity to ask before the making period gets hectic again.
  2. Create a plan for the rest of the school year: You and your child may have had a plan in the beginning of September. Maybe they were going to read twenty minutes every day or going to try a new sport. How has the plan been working for your student? January can be a great time to take a pause and reevaluate. How can you both readjust your plan so that some subjects that need improvement get a little more attention?
  3. Check in with your student:Returning to school can be a difficult transition after a week or so relaxing. Anxiety about grades, social life, and school may rise to the surface again. The start of a new year can be a great opportunity to ask your student how she’s doing, how she felt about the first few months of school, and how you can best help support her.

How to Prevent Burnout

Posted

Between balancing work, school, and our social lives, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. How do we juggle the demands of daily life while maintaining our mental health? Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that becoming burnt out, or too exhausted to do much of anything, could be a message from our bodies that we need to take a break. Here are three strategies for people of all ages when the stress becomes too much and they need a moment to pause:

Deep breathing: Taking time to take large, full body breaths is a mindfulness technique that spans cultures, decades, and belief practices. Reminding your body to breathe, slowly and peacefully, can bring you back to a more relaxing headspace. Practicing meditation, where you focus on your breaths, can help you slow down in moments when things feel hectic.

Step away from email, phone calls, social media, etc.: The constant influx of notifications from our devices means we sometimes respond right away to everyone. It’s hard to get a break from work if your email and phone are always by your side. Consider setting boundaries with your coworkers or your friends and family that say you’ll check your phone at certain times of the day instead of answering everyone instantly.

Write: For many, writing has been a punitive process in school. People remember a professor picking apart their sentences or feeling embarrassed by their writing, but if you’re writing for therapeutic reasons, you don’t have to show anything to others that you’re not comfortable sharing. Journaling just to get your thoughts out of your head and onto the page without worrying about grammar, spelling, or how “good” it sounds can be an opportunity to process your thoughts and get a fresh perspective on what’s been stressing you.

There are many stigmas around mental health that sometimes discourage people from seeking help or prioritizing their well-being. However, by taking care of ourselves, we set a strong example to the people we love that we also want them to be happy, healthy, and confident, too.

Thank You for Your Support

Posted

The first student I ever had was a ten-year-old girl named Rina. I was only in my early twenties, and I mostly mimicked what I saw my mother do in her own tutoring sessions. As Rina grew up, we stayed in contact through her high school and college years. Nearly two decades later, Rina brought her first child to me for in-person tutoring at our old building in downtown Pennsauken. Seeing Rina’s smiling face replicated on her daughter was a special and invaluable moment for me.

Something that makes Tailored Tutoring unique is that we are a small, family-owned business. We understand that familial support plays an essential role in a child’s education. We are so grateful when we get the opportunity to work with multiple generations of the same family. When a company is invested in an entire community, we get to see the long-term impact of our programs and curriculum. It means we are being entrusted with children, parents, and grandparents, and we don’t take that task lightly. Thank you to our clients who continue to support and trust us with their families’ educational needs.

 

By Shawn R. Jones

Interview with Executive Administrative Assistant Michelle Obasi

Posted

How long have you been tutoring? What’s your favorite subject to tutor?

I have been a tutor for a little over 5 years! I really enjoy how straightforward math can be, but I really enjoy noticing the long term differences when it comes to reading fluency.

What are the benefits of one-on-one tutoring compared to larger educational settings like classrooms?

Compared to classrooms, one-on-one tutoring allows students to be more open with their thoughts and feelings as well as have someone pay more attention to those same feelings. Most kids might feel intimidated when asking questions in the classroom because of what their peers might think, however, one-on-one tutoring can shrink those pressures.

What’s something you enjoy about working at Tailored Tutoring LLC? What makes it stand out as a company? 

I enjoy working at Tailored Tutoring LLC because not only does everyone truly care about education, but they also care about the well being of every student. The name of the company truly fits, and makes it stand out because Tailored Tutoring adjusts to meet the needs of children so they can ultimately meet success, instead of forcing children to fit a mold that may fail them.

What’s been one of your favorite experiences as a tutor so far?

Seeing the immediate impact tutoring sessions can have on a student’s confidence is my favorite thing about tutoring. I like hearing stories of students being more attentive simply because they know they now have someone who will answer any questions they have without judgement.

Why We Love Working with Adult Learners

Posted

At Tailored Tutoring LLC, we love to work with students of all ages and learning styles. Sometimes we even get the exciting opportunity to serve multiple generations in one family. From parents to grandparents, we work with a diverse range of clients who are returning to school, studying for professional exams, or striving to improve their writing and arithmetic skills. Sometimes there is a stigma around adult learners that says people of a certain age are too old to learn or gain new skills, but at Tailored Tutoring, we know there is no wrong time for education.

Many adult learners are balancing the responsibilities of daily life with exams, homework, and assignments. Because of the sheer business of their schedules, adult learners are very serious about getting the most out of their educational opportunities. They are determined to be active participants in the classroom who ask questions when they are uncertain and communicate openly and directly with their teachers.

Especially in higher education, the academic landscape is becoming increasingly diverse in age. As tutors, we want to serve all students with compassion and let them know that whenever they feel ready, it’s the perfect time to learn!

By Tailored Tutoring’s Writing Staff

You Are More Than Your Grades

Posted

For many students, being back in school means the return of test anxiety. In some children, this may manifest as an upset stomach or even bad nerves that impact their test performance. How can we, as adults, help relieve some of our children’s fears around exams and assessments?

Provide context for your child:
Many children think that tests measure intelligence. If they don’t get a certain grade or percentage, children may feel insecure or inadequate. While tests may be an indicator of a child’s progress or how much they’ve grasped a certain skill, our intelligence cannot be reduced to a number. Educators around the world debate the efficacy of tests for students of diverse backgrounds and learning styles. Remind your children that tests are not the be-all and end-all when it comes to education. Many smart and innovative people struggle under the time constraints and pressures of an exam. The most important thing we can stress to our child is to try their best and to remember that no one’s worth or intelligence can be simplified to a letter grade.

Help your child prepare:
How does your child prefer to study? Do they enjoy using flashcards or making a study guide? Depending on the subjects, there are many resources online that can make studying less daunting for your child. Help them come up with habits that work for them by trying out a variety of study methods. Some students prefer to highlight as they read, others like to stand up and move when they practice their multiplication facts. It can take years for a student to develop a system that works best for them, so be patient and encourage your child to try new approaches.

Communication with teachers:
For younger students in a smaller classroom, it may be easier for a teacher to notice when a student is fidgeting or having a hard time with a test. But in larger classrooms, it may be a challenge for the teacher to check in with every individual student. Additionally, students may feel less comfortable speaking up and sharing their anxieties around their peers. For younger students, it’s helpful if parents or guardians communicate to the teacher any concerns they may have that will affect their child’s experiences in the classroom. It’s also essential that the students talk to the instructor directly, but this may be more difficult with children in elementary and middle school. In high school and in college, professors have more of an expectation that students will communicate clearly about their experiences in the classroom. No matter what age your student is, teachers can be great resources and advocates to turn to when test anxiety strikes.