The First Session
When I began working with high school student, Andrew (name has been changed), his mother called me looking for someone who could help him work through learning Spanish despite his Dyslexia. During our first session, I tried get a fair assessment of his ability to succeed. In doing so, I was not necessarily looking for some type of magical aptitude for it, but simply what his attitude was toward the subject. For example, I began by asking him why he was hiring a tutor. In turn, he explained that he had been in his required Spanish classes for two years and was failing. He worried he wouldn’t be able to pass the class, which would affect his ability to get into college. In my experience, a student who gives me an answer like this fears failure. And, to help him take advantage of my services, he needed a pre-tutoring pep-talk. In this talk, my plan was to use the Skype platform to go about changing Andrew’s perspective on the learning process so he could excel.
The Pre-tutoring Pep-Talk
In general, there are two parts to this pep-talk. The first part is to establish my expertise so my students will trust that I can meet their needs. The second is to help them view failure as an opportunity.
Though Andrew and his parents came to me because they felt his needs were not being met locally, as is common with new Skype students, Andrew still had some apprehension about working with a Skype Tutor, especially given his struggles even without the distance barriers. So, to help ease his apprehension, I had to establish my expertise around my ability to better meet his needs as a Spanish tutor and as a Skype Tutor. First, I shared my credentials and a brief overview of my experience with Spanish including the work I have done as a professional with the language. Next, to help Andrew understand his struggles were not uncommon and, even more importantly, were not uncommon to overcome; I shared a little about my initial struggles with the language. I find my students feel a lot more comfortable struggling and letting me help them with their struggles when they know I’ve been through them myself. And, lastly, for extra reassurance, I explained that I developed my curriculum specifically to make those struggles easier to overcome. Next, it was time to talk about my industry expertise. As a student who with Dyslexia, Andrew’s most difficult hurdles to overcome were learning to read and write in the new language. So, to help him overcome his anxiety about hiring a Skype tutor and the distance barriers involved, I introduced him to cramberry.net. Though this is only one of many online tutoring tools I use, cramberry.net works specifically on both reading and writing skills while still following my philosophy of using baby steps and building on failure to learn. It does this by looking for the concepts the student is having the most difficulty with and focusing on those concepts until the student has mastered them. In introducing Andrew to this tool, he realized that not only can I better support him because of my past experience with helping students with learning disabilities, but because, as a Skype tutor, I know how to better integrate virtual tools that will specifically make things easier on him.
Failure as an Opportunity.
To help Andrew see failure as an opportunity, I began by telling him the value of failure. Really, after studying and working with so many successful leaders throughout my career and as an MBA student, I have learned one all-important lesson: all success is built on trial and error. I like to pass this tidbit of information onto my students. In this way, they can begin to see failure as an opportunity instead of something to dread. Next, in light of this perspective, I told him that we will deal with failure together. I explained that when he fails, it is an opportunity for me to see what he does and does not know. Then, using cramberry.net and my other online teaching tools, we could slow down a little and work on what he was struggling with until he had mastered it. Undoubtedly, with small steps, I assured him he could master anything.
The Plan in Action
I enjoyed watching Andrew come to understand and trust in this process. In doing so, he went from being fearful of failing – to being enthusiastic enough to take creative risks and correct his own mistakes. While viewing failure as an opportunity and using my Skype Tutor virtual tools to support this process, Andrew began to excel. As we worked, I used every opportunity to help him continue seeing failure in a different light. Here is how I went about doing this: –I always warned him beforehand when a concept would be a little challenging to grasp. Then, I reassured him we would take all the time we needed to learn it together using baby steps. And, I manipulated my virtual tools to support him in his new struggles. –As we started learning the new concept, we took it slowly and I always told him that we would work on it until he was so good at using the concept that he would never forget it. In using baby steps and my Skype tutoring tools to support them, he saw himself excelling and gained confidence and enthusiasm. –I praised him even through his mistakes. For example, when he used a verb correctly but didn’t use the right pronoun, I expressed how happy I was about how well he had conjugated the verb and then told him we needed to do a little refresher on the pronouns. –Lastly, I followed through. Andrew knew I would always remember his struggles and develop lesson plans we could work through together to overcome them. By responding quickly to failure, he didn’t have to fear it in other contexts when virtual supports weren’t available (such as in class). In our forum below, we would love to hear your stories on how you used online tutoring platforms to help your students through their fears of failure! Sign up here to let us know if you are interested in teaching or learning online.