"To see a child’s frustration go away, to see him happy, confident , and bringing home good grades — I can’t imagine doing anything else," says personal tutor Jan Rowe, who works with children with attention and learning problems.
Rowe was a classroom teacher in public schools for 12 years before working as a personal tutor at Educational Connections in Fairfax, Virginia. She works one on one with students, identifying the source of a child’s learning struggles and developing strategies to help that child succeed.
Rowe’s first step is to listen to the child. She is usually briefed about a child’s struggles by parents and teachers, but she’s found that everything she needs to know to help a child succeed comes from the child herself. She begins by asking the child about her strengths , where she feels she struggles academically, and when those struggles began.
The conversations are revealing, exposing gaps in the foundation of the child’s knowledge. Identifying and filling in those gaps brings most students up to speed quickly.
Rowe’s strategies go beyond teaching the mechanics of math or language arts. She helps her students develop skills to stay focused in class. Many of her students with ADHD are doodlers. She’s all for doodling while taking notes, as long as those doodles have something to do with what the teacher is talking about. In her experience, doodling can help children retain concepts and focus their attention.
Rowe believes that the student-teacher connection is key to classroom success, so she works with students on how to communicate with their teachers. She encourages children to open up to their other teachers as they open up to her. Instead of having kids raise their hands when they need help or don’t understand something, Rowe suggests that each one talk to a teacher in private, write a note, or send an e-mail.
Parents and siblings are also affected by the struggles of the child. Rowe works with parents to help them establish structure and routines for homework. She also supports parents as they work with teachers to make homework doable and productive. Each step forward she makes with a student and parents builds confidence, which carries over into the classroom. There’s nothing more rewarding than that, says Rowe.