Saved after the bell — Tutors teach kids valuable skills after hours
Tutors like Jason Garcia foster kids’ learning after the final bell rings. For more than 20 years, Garcia has worked with students all along the coast at the Pacifica-based company One on One Tutoring. He said reading and writing tutors are generally in high demand for younger kids, while high school students often need help improving their math skills or brushing up before an exam. Garcia, who specializes in mathematics tutoring, said that sometimes making a learning breakthrough is as easy as 3x + 2x. He agreed to answer a few questions about his work posed by Coastside magazine staff writer April Seager.
1. What is something you have learned about tutoring over the years? Something that I didn’t recognize as a young mathematics tutor is related to vocabulary. If students are told what to do for the first problem, they’re able to repeat the process throughout several problems. But if they’re given a set of directions with no examples, they’re at a loss because they don’t know the vocabulary. Like if the direction just says “simplify” and the problem is 3x + 2x, the answer is 5x. But oftentimes the students are trying to solve for x because they don’t know that they need to simplify. And so, vocabulary is actually a very important part of mathematics that I think is sometimes lost.
2. How much learning loss have you encountered in the wake of the pandemic? There are a handful of students — and they wouldn’t necessarily be the students in our office — that actually excelled during the pandemic because they were self-driven already. They got in, they got their work done, and then they could excel beyond what was being taught. But what we’ve generally seen in our office for students that need help is that they’re about a year behind. Even if someone was great at math, when they took the classroom away and they took the teacher away, he or she got lost.
3. What is the relationship between tutoring and classroom instruction? Our objective is to support what is being learned in the classroom, and so we don’t necessarily want to bring in a new approach for resolving an issue until it’s necessary. If students are given a new approach and then they go back to school in five days or a week and they’re being given a different approach, then it’s a mismatch and they (still) feel lost. So, we’ll say, “Show me as much as you can of what your teacher has taught you.” And then we can build on that and we can say, “OK, here’s what your teacher is trying to say — here’s what you’re missing.” And then the student goes back to school and says, “OK, I know what the teacher is talking about now because the tutor showed me.”
4. Learning tends to happen gradually. How do you know when something clicks? Sometimes you experience something as dramatic as a breakthrough where you witness the student saying, “Ohhhh!” Sometimes if I teach something and I don’t get that reaction, I literally repeat it, especially in mathematics.
I say, “No, you didn’t really get that. You should have had an epiphany at that moment, and you didn’t.” So, for mathematics, there’s that. And then for our younger students, we often get feedback from the parents like, “They’re reading so much better now” or “The teacher is noticing such a difference.” For high school students, we help them prepare for a test and then they come back and tell us how they did.
5. What can parents do at home to support a child’s tutoring? For reading and writing, oftentimes tutors will recommend practicing with flashcards or reading with the children more. In the area of mathematics — that’s a tough one. With high school mathematics, the students have to do their part. That is kind of the trick. So, having parents check in with them to see that they’re actually doing the work and making a solid effort and also that their papers are organized — oftentimes that is kind of forgotten. It’s very important for students to have neat, organized papers as they work through material because it helps with understanding. Coastside
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