Tuesday, August 14, 2012


The Tutor: by Debra A. Boyle M.Ed.

Photo via her LinkedIn profile

I recently had a chance to read, The Tutor by Debra A. Boyle. Debra is a tutor with a Master’s in Education with over 20 years experience tutoring.
Per her own words, "This [book] is not a documentary nor is it a fiction novel. It is also not an autobiography. What this book hopes to accomplish is to provide information for both parents and teachers into the difficulties students face, especially those with disabilities."
As someone who has both tutored and taught I found some of her conclusions interesting, For example, “Only a teacher who is confident of his/her position and skills will welcome outside help from a tutor.” I had never had a teacher who did not welcome my help as a tutor, nor have I ever discouraged tutors from helping my students (with the exception of those who have a “tutor” who writes all their papers for them). Since I had never experienced this on either end news of this shocked me, however... it does make sense. She goes on, “In contrast, a teacher having few years of experience, new to the district, or otherwise lacking success in their own skills... attempt[s] to show their principal, students, and students’ parents that they are fully able to manage their challenging students without other professional help."
At other times she speaks ad nauseum about the smallest details, which I would hope most tutors would overlook. She discusses the horrors of a hungry child, the perils of a messy room, and the nerve of a cat to bathe in front of her. She refers to the increase of diagnosed ADD students, and while I know that is true I also know that many parents encourage their children to be ADD as the extra time on tests helps them academically and the drugs make them easier to parent. Thus I am always wary of anything mentioning ADD.
Many other opinions she mentions however I completely agree with. My thoughts on standardized tests mirror hers. When she refers to Standardized Tests she refers to a student she had who despite improving in class and in their tutoring sessions had received a lower grade on her standardized test. She explains to the father, “Ella may have not felt well; was stressed since state tests are dreaded indicators of what class a student will be in for the next school year; or had rushed herself so that she placed her answers in the wrong spaces. It is difficult to determine just exactly why a student receives an odd grade in comparison to his/her typical grades... Give a student the same test three days in a row and it is likely that you will get three different scores. So which score is the accurate one?”
She discusses the different ways of teaching (since all students learn differently, “For some students, it is necessary to present concepts in extremely visual methods—via videos, drawings, pictures, objects, artifacts, as well as nearly pantomiming every word while speaking, much as like using sign language. For other students, it is essential that auditory methods be accentuated by using a recording of their own voice while reading or speaking; asking them to explain a concept just learned as if they were “the teacher and I was the student”; involving music, singing; or overly enunciating phonemes until they can be repeated with accurate distinction....” this is something I am really a believer in (I am a very audio learner. It is very difficult for me to remember something I read or saw, but if I heard it I can usually remember it verbatim. As such I make conscious efforts to vary the methods I use to teach. (Kinesthetic: (Origami, TPR Audio: Songs  Visual: Drawing Stories, Drawing Sentence And things that combine (songs with TPR or chants with TPR which are both audio and visual etc.)

She goes on to mention her experiences in the class and out of the classroom with special education students where my heart goes out to her. I have rarely worked with them but I know what a challenge it is to use different methods constantly to try and keep their attention and help them learn. She also mentions emotionally and behaviorally disabled (EBD) students of which I have only taught in the lower class levels (preschool) but have always been a test of patience.
Throughout the book she quotes facts about tutors, famous tutors, poems about tutors etc. She also includes various case studies which I felt were more like vignettes, some of which I found very intriguing, others of which I finished reading wondering why she had bothered to include them.
She ends the book with a plea for education to consider changing. Her proposal is learning centers. “Imagine that every public school building in your community was a quality learning center. Any person residing in the vicinity could visit the center so that there would not be a restriction on the number of students—not even a lottery would be necessary. During regular school hours the center would be open for students to work year-round on their graduation requirements. While some students may progress faster than others, the goal would be to assist each student through the basic and advanced knowledge needed to be a 'graduate'.” While there are many things I disagree with I encourage her ability to think outside the box and recognize that there is a lot lacking in the current education system.
Overall the book was something that I learned from and had me thinking. Though I didn't always agree with her, critical thinking to defend my own perspectives is always helpful. If you are a tutor, a teacher whose students use tutors, a parent who has used tutors or really just someone wondering what on earth a tutor could have to write a book about I'd recommend that you check out Debra A Boyle's book The Tutor.

If you are interested in checking out the glamorous (or not-so-glamorous) life of a tutor via Mrs. Debra A. Boyle you can check out more about the book to the left OR the KINDLE version to the right.

You may also be interested in checking out the two children's early readers she has created. After reading The Tutor I have great faith that the books would be helpful for students who need assistance in reading or in tutors and teachers looking for books to help struggling students.

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