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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Going It Alone - Or - Mum is always right!

Every now and again the question of what makes a good eleven plus tutor comes up in discussion. If you want your child to pass the eleven plus examinations you will naturally strive to find the best possible tutor you can.

When you have gone through all the local options – and even the internet based options - you may decide that you would like to do it all yourself. Once you have made your decision – you obviously have the `power’ to change your mind. You may land up working with your teachers at school or a tutor.

So what do you, as a parent, need to be able to do when you start working with your child?

You need some information about the examination your child will be facing. You will find this information through the school, listening to other parents and as a result of your own research.

You are going to have to remember than when you are talking about the eleven plus with your child and your family you will be wearing two hats.

On the one hand you will be mum or dad the provider. You will provide food, shelter, love and attention. In other words you will be a parent.

You will also, however, be mum or dad the tutor. This means that you have to look at your child a little dispassionately at times. You know deep in your heart that praise, reward and recognition will get better results than tears and tantrums. (Here we are talking about your tears and tantrums – not your well balanced child’s reactions to your teaching!)

Now you need to set some goals. You know that a timetable will help with short term goals and organising time. You know that you will also need to set some long term goals.

You will need to be confident about your subject matter, it does not matter that you were taught long multiplication in a different way as long as you understand that you can find out how it is being taught in school – and you can adapt and be positive about what you know. If something `goes wrong’ in your tutor role simply say – `I am sorry I don’t know – but I will try to find out as soon as possible.’ This will work for methods of teaching as well as solutions to hard questions.

Something that may be hard to take on board is that a topic you find blindingly easy may not engender the same degree of excitement in your child. You will, at times, need to display the patience of Jove. Be prepared to teach, revise and re-teach – just like a proper teacher!

It is vitally important that you must be flexible. If your child is bored, or hungry or irritable be prepared to change the topic you are working on. You do not need to make tutoring sessions into a battle of wills. Imagine that you had an outside recording one of your sessions – and that the methods and content of the lesson would be displayed for all to see. Would you continue to use the same vocabulary? Would your tone of voice change? Would you continue to insist that your way was the best? You need to be able to step back.

What ever you do not provide all the answers. Encourage your child to work independently and solve problems. Allow some frustration and challenges. It is all part of growing up.

And finally. Think – if you were paying a tutor – would you allow the tutor to take a personal call in the middle of a lesson? Would you sanction a tutor leaving the room to put the supper on? If you were paying good money to some professional body would you allow them to break off and have a chat?

But more importantly – what an adventure! What a challenge for you and the family. What deep pleasure you are going to get if you and your child achieve the goals you have set for yourselves.

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