Thinking Ahead 4: Mentor Tutoring

For the past several years, I have run a business called “Pen and Paper Mama Services.” For the main part, I have done tutoring and editing, plus some writing, workshops, author website consulting, and other similar activities. But as I reached the grand age of 65 in the summer of 2020, I am now considering how I can take on some new directions in my business and in my life. Over the next few blog posts, I will share the research I have been doing on various alternatives—and I’d be happy to have readers share their thoughts and input in the comments. Thank you! The following are the topics I’ll be covering:

  1. Coaching
  2. Mentoring
  3. Mentor writing and self-editing
  4. Mentor tutoring
  5. Specific services I am considering offering

Mentor Tutoring

In the past, I have taught in public and independent schools, home schooled my own five children, and tutored students from kindergarten through college levels. I have also created a blog/website, , which provides guidance for tutors as well as for parents and students in tutoring situations. I have developed a wide variety of tutoring aids, some of which are available on my . And I have tutored writing and editing skills for older students and adults, through workshops and through my blog, . When I first tutored, I specialized in providing personalized skill building for students with special needs, especially at the elementary level. As time passed, I also added students who attend brick-and-mortar schools or online schools, who needed help with coursework and/or homework, and thus moved more into middle school and secondary school levels. Though I was still working mainly with special needs students, I found myself more and more having to follow a specific curriculum, with little time to focus on helping students develop personalized skills they can use both presently and into their future education, careers, and throughout life. These latter educational goals, of course, are held by almost all teachers for their students, but in classroom situations with large numbers of students and multiple needs, it can be difficult for teachers to follow through on these goals, which is why outside tutoring may be necessary—and mentoring, as well.

While I enjoyed seeing students’ marks improve, I more and more have wanted to focus on mentoring, rather than strictly tutoring. I also would like to focus on skills and approaches which I love and have more experience and knowledge about. What, you may wonder, do I mean by all this? Let’s take a look at the differences between tutoring and mentoring in education, as I have experienced them, and some of my personal interests as well:

What does a standard tutor do?

– follow the requirements of an educational system; teach prescribed curriculum/skills that often allow minimal options or few alternative approaches
– help students complete homework assignments that are often “fill-in-the-blank” or similar style (rather than creative approaches that allow students to use their personal learning approaches)
– provide support to overcome specific academic problems
– teach specific concepts and learning skills
– help students reach short-term goals (e.g. learn specific concepts and/or skills in a given subject) so as to reach short-term outcomes end results such as passing a subject, preparing for a final exam, etc.
– try to fulfill the academic expectations of teachers, parents, administrators, and professional counselors and medical personnel
– academic coaching, direct help with specific disciplines and subjects, drilling, in-depth tutoring (beyond classroom teaching), working on new processes or concepts
– analyze and discover gaps in learning, and help fill the gaps to provide a better foundation for current learning needs
– improve literacy and numeracy skills specific to the requirements of the curriculum and homework

What does a mentor-tutor do?

– help students find their personal best ways of navigating learning and skill development, and use that in both education and in a wide variety of real-life situations
– help students dig deep, discover their potential, seek out ways to learn that are challenging yet possible for them (rather than just allowing them to do less or easier work, which is sometimes a situation in classroom learning due to the teacher having multiple students and thus lacking time and energy to focus on personal needs and development)
– point students to imaginative, adventuresome, out-of-the-box directions and solutions (if possible, with their personal ideas and input) that will help them use their personal potential, learning styles, and capabilities
– in both planning and tutoring, think creatively, research widely, take leaps, ask lots of good questions … and approach learning as play, not just work
– while providing support to overcome immediate academic problems and teaching of specific academic skills, simultaneously instill positive values, beliefs, and attitudes that sustain interest and achievement
– act as a wise and trusted confidant/counselor and role model over a longer term; provide guidance; motivate; be a confidence booster; provide emotional support; listen; take an interest in their lives, hopes, dreams; encourage areas that fall outside the strict parameters of curriculum
– work with students to recognize their own expectations and hopes; negotiate effective relationships with them; help them explore previously unimagined perspectives
– help students reach longer-term goals, developing skills and attitudes that will provide lifelong learning abilities
– help students develop communication skills, resilience, self-control, organizational skills, self-motivation, self-confidence: a mentor goes beyond “tutoring” to help students develop their own abilities, attitudes, life skills
– look at the “bigger picture,” getting to the root of academic or other personal educational issues. Why is the student unhappy, unmotivated, etc.? What are they interested in; what excites them? What personalized approaches could a mentor take to help each individual student, beyond just learning specific skills or concepts in a traditional way?
– help students develop their own life skills such as planning, time management, long- and short-term goal setting, conversational and other communication skills; as well as develop learning skills such as reading comprehension, writing skills, listening skills, recognition of patterns, etc., for math and science
– mentoring is multi-dimensional, concerned with life skills including building quality relationships, sharing life experiences together, and improving capabilities for lifelong learning and success
– advocate and mediate with teachers, parents, and other educational team members to change or modify content, assessment, and courses to suit a student’s specific needs and abilities

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