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My Teen Is Struggling With School: Do We Need to Hire a Tutor?

Watching your son or daughter struggle academically can be frustrating and stressful. If your teen is struggling with school, how do you know when to tell her to buckle down and study harder, and when it is time to consider a tutor? If you need to raise their grades, Mr. Brad Ganor,  former Director of the Walton Learning Center at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio, has some tips for parents.

Do I Need a Tutor for My Teenager?

1. Use your teen’s age and grade level as a guide.

A junior in high school with a consistent history of achievement who has a C in Spanish three or four weeks into a new semester will probably be able to self-correct more readily than a freshman who is having trouble adjusting to a high school workload or a seventh grader with poor organizational skills. With a younger student, Ganor tells parents, “Don’t wait. Get your student help right away. Don’t risk falling behind, or losing a semester of credit, or having to re-take a class over the summer.”

2. Teens are naturally averse to seeking help.

According to Ganor, teens tend to think they can fix their problems on their own. Teens (especially boys) frequently see asking for help as a sign of weakness, and this can be a barrier to receiving the extra help they may need. “School should not be a sink or swim proposition,” says Ganor. Rather, encourage your teen to see learning as a progression that takes place over the entire school year and is not determined solely by one bad grade. Promote an atmosphere at home that fosters asking for and receiving extra help for difficult concepts or subjects until he or she understands the material.

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3. Accept that you may not be the best person to help your teen.

Face it; it’s been a long time since you studied Trigonometry. Even if you remember enough to help, sometimes the dynamic between parent and teen can result in impatience and frustration for both of you. In addition to providing one-on-one attention and expertise in a subject area, a qualified tutor can be a great source of advice and encouragement for parents as well. Michelle, the mother of a thirteen year old boy in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, says that finding the right tutor to pinpoint her son’s specific learning issue, which neither she nor his teachers had been able to identify, was “just as big a relief to me as it was to my son.”

4. Communicate with your teen’s teachers and, if you can, periodically check grades online.

Teachers may know within the first few days or weeks of class that your son is falling behind, or that your daughter just cannot wrap her head around the ablative tense of Latin verbs. You, however, may not be aware of any problems until months later when you receive that first report card. If your teen’s school offers online access to grades, take the time to check in every now and then (but don’t obsess). Ganor recommends that parents inform teachers right away of any issues or concerns over their teen’s academic progress. Ask for advice, recommendations, or referrals if you have any questions.

Jane Parent, former editor at Your Teen, is the parent of three.

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