The last two years have been busy. Kirk’s Tutoring has helped dozens of students, one at a time. While I love my students and my job, it feels as though I have gotten “stuck.” I have been dealing (not very well) with depression and not growing much as a tutor.
One way I have been improving my tutoring strategies is learning from Jonily Zupancic, the founder of Minds On Math and author of Making Math Mathineers. She hosts monthly Saturday Math trainings, and a math conference each June. I love her distinction between “school math” and “real math.” What she calls “real math” usually scares my clients initially. After they experience it, my clients ask for more.
When I was recently approached about being the Math Specialist for a new hybrid school nearby, it was the perfect opportunity for me to challenge myself. I accepted their invitation and will be there Tuesday & Thursday mornings starting in September. If you homeschool near Decatur, Avondale Estates, Stone Mountain, or Tucker, check out the Oak House School Room. The two ladies who are creating this hybrid school are amazing.
For years, I have wrestled with the challenges my students face that are a result of their relationship with math. Math is the most emotionally charged school subject. When young people struggle with math, they also struggle with self-image issues. Their concept of self becomes negative. This has ripple effects in all aspects of their lives. Some students have experienced Math Trauma. This isn’t a well known phenomenon, but it is real.
A large part of what I do falls under what I call Math Therapy. If you haven’t read the earlier post on Math Therapy, click the link. This explains why I say to prospective clients that a lot of time in tutoring sessions is spent talking about math instead of doing math. My goal is to help students see themselves as capable thinkers, not answer getters. I ask a lot of questions, hoping to help students see connections and relationships between math concepts. They are encouraged to make up math problems which we solve together. None of my clients have ever encountered math this way before. It is too uncomfortable for some, but the results can be amazing. Three of my former “math phobic/math hatting” clients are now math tutors. I believe young people who struggled with math make the best tutors because they understand how it feels to not be successful in math.
I want to spend a few lines explaining some of the “logistics” of Kirk’s Tutoring. Vcita is the software I use to run the business. It is literally the cheapest software I could find. Vcita captures messages from this website, has a very basic scheduling module, and has plug-ins for Square and PayPal so people can pay online. Using Vcita, I can create an invoice which clients can pay with a card, or PayPal.
Kirk’s Tutoring doesn’t make families pay before a session. I am implementing a new policy that if an invoice is more than 30 days past due, there will be no more tutoring sessions until all outstanding invoices have been paid.
Kirk’s Tutoring divides each year into two parts. The “school year” runs from early August until Memorial Day. This mirrors the DeKalb County School District where I live. Summer is from the first Monday in June until the end of July. Families are free to discontinue tutoring at any time. If a student’s school year goes into June, I will keep working with them as long as they want.
What some people don’t understand is each school year and each summer is a reset. The schedule is wiped clean. Clients may not have the same day & time for tutoring after a reset. I always schedule current & returning clients before adding new clients, but all scheduling is first-come-first-serve. If a family doesn’t tell me what they want, they may not get it. Sorry.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of using manipulatives when doing math. I have some online students who don’t and the difference in growth between using blocks and not using blocks is the difference between day and night.
Students who don’t have a good number sense need to use blocks, or other manipulatives, to understand math. They can memorize facts, maybe, but don’t know how to use them. I would rather a student understand math and choose the way they want to solve a problem, versus memorizing an algorithm that doesn’t make sense.
I am still requiring students who are not on grade level to meet with me at least twice a week until they are. There is no way students can fill in math gaps with only once a week tutoring unless adults are helping them with manipulatives the other days of the week. I am happy to teach adults how to do that, but very few are interested.
If you are still reading, thank you. Be well and take care.