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Ima Teacher 06-23-2020 08:16 PM

Tutoring a Reluctant Child
I have agreed to tutor a high school sophomore in English, especially writing, this summer. Our goal is twice-weekly sessions until he finishes his credit recovery class. (He failed English during the distance learning.) I had this child in middle school, and he did some tutoring with me then and again this last year. Heís smart. Heís a good kid. He hates writing. He gets overwhelmed. Breaking things into small pieces works, so I help him write an outline piece by piece. We have gotten through several pieces this way.

Today he didnít log in for the session. He didnít email me the assignment to look over ahead of time. His mom could not get him to engage for the session. We are going to try again on Thursday.

Iím not sure what we need to do to get him to buy into getting this done. Honestly, he might do better in the in-person credit recovery this fall. If he doesnít pass the class, he wonít have enough credits to be a junior, and that will also keep him from being able to take the vocational classes that he wants.

His mom and I have tried to think this through, but we are stuck. Any suggestions?

PrivateEyes 06-24-2020 02:22 AM

I'd tell his parents
to allow him to experience the consequences of not engaging. Honestly, I did something similar with my daughter, who was bright, but not doing her homework and thus near to failing. (I don't think students who can pass a test with 100% and do all in class assignments with As should be near failing because of homework, but that's a different discussion.)

Anyhow, after meeting with the teachers at their request and understanding what the issue was, I sat my daughter down and explained that in this world, there are things you do because you must do them, and that if you don't, you have to be able to live with the consequences. And we listed the life consequences of her lack of homework. Then we left it up to her. For her, having the choice/freedom to fail was enough to motivate her to succeed. Two years later, she was one of five students in our county honored for scholarship for her grade level. (Sophomore)

So this child must complete this tutoring session successfully in order to take the classes he wants to take in the fall. His parents should remind him of the consequences and leave it up to him. He will finish the course with you in the summer, or he will repeat the course in the fall and be barred from the vocational classes he wishes to take. As long as the parents are taking the initiative, he doesn't have to. When they stop trying to make him pass, he'll have to step up or live with the consequences. Either way, it will be a good life lesson.

P.S. They have to really mean it. It can't be a ploy. They really have to be willing to let him fail.

Englishish 06-24-2020 07:09 AM

I echo was PE has said. A sophomore in high school is old enough to deal with the natural consequences of his actions for something like this. It doesnít sound like there will be a catastrophic outcome if he chooses not to do the work, but there will be an uncomfortable one. Thatís a good lesson to learn at this age.

tyrex 06-24-2020 07:11 AM

Parent (long)
Boy did this strike a nerve in me as a parent of a boy that age and as a high school teacher.

Mom needs to be willing to step up and do the hard part of parenting. Given that you say the boy is capable of the academics, if I were his mom I'd have one of these two conversations.

1. In this house it is unacceptable to fail a class out of laziness. Therefore, you have a punishment, which is taking away your _____ (cell phone, wifi password, car, time with friends, video games--whichever one he cares about most).


2. In this house it is unacceptable to fail a class out of laziness. Therefore, I am going to remove the item that distracted you and prevented you from taking care of your class (and I'd remove one of the things from above.)

Then to address the issue of getting overwhelmed, I would do this. (Example days) Monday--he meets with you and does the outline. He does not get his phone or whatever until the meeting is done. At bedtime, the phone gets taken again. Tuesday--he writes the intro paragraph and emails it to you. Once he shows Mom the email, he gets his phone. Repeat every day with different parts of the essay.

If he fakes it by sending junk to you so he can get the phone, or if he skips a session, he loses the phone for a week or he loses something else in addition. If Mom is working and can't deal with checking the emails and giving him the phone until 5:00 when she gets back from work, that's the way it goes.

If he wants to work ahead to guarantee he gets the phone all week he can email the whole essay and guarantee that many days of the phone.

If he blows off tutoring and still fails the class, the phone is gone until he has a passing grade in the class in the fall.

I understand that sometimes it's better to let kids make choices and suffer the consequences, but it doesn't sound like Mom has done any consequences yet. He is still quite young. I also think that the consequences (getting held back, not getting to take vocational classes) could have a very negative effect on his self-esteem. Plus, he wouldn't learn any practical skills about breaking up a task into smaller parts and pushing through to do something necessary but unpleasant.

He also needs a consequence for having skipped the session this week.

I doubt his mom will be willing to do all this, because I don't think she'd be asking for ideas if she were willing to be the bad guy.

Ima Teacher 06-24-2020 08:47 AM

Iím thinking the same way. I was beginning to think I was being too hard on the kid.

I know Mom has removed the power cord from his video games. He is home alone while she works, so she did not take his phone due to safety concerns as they donít have a home phone. She is, however, thinking of getting a home phone again so she can take his cell. She started sending him to work with grandpa on the farm every day so that he doesnít have the option to be lazy all day. He does see a therapist.

At this point, I think the ball is in his court. He either does it or faces the consequences. He always gets saved from those at some point, so Iím not sure he fully understands consequences.

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