Monday, June 16, 2008

Intervention, Part 2

Should you decide to "intervene" on behalf of your student, do not be surprised to find that some people in your school may not be happy about it.

Schools often design their own plans for intervention. There may be a distinct intervention "order" which you and your student should/must follow: You start at point A (probably your student's math teacher); if that isn't helpful, proceed to point B (another math teacher), etc.; then on up the ladder to perhaps the head of the math department. This is how the school has decided you must do it.

I know many teachers who gladly help students before school, after school. To them, the goal is student understanding and they are willing to help.

And don't misunderstand; I commend schools for becoming involved in the tutoring process to help students.

But let's consider that your student's math teacher is not competent in teaching new concepts or in identifying gaps in reasoning. What happens if your student goes to this teacher for tutoring (because that is where you must start)? This teacher will use the same approach used in class. What didn't work in class will be tried during the tutoring and your student will probably not get much benefit.

And how does that make your student feel? I'll tell you (but you know). He feels no better, maybe worse! Now he sees that even with extra help, he still doesn't get it!! He may start saying that he is "dumb".

So you desperately attempt to find alternative support and help. Woe be to you, if the school Math Department finds that you have, on your own, asked another teacher to help your child. You could be soundly scolded for not taking advantage of the proper recommended "line" of help.

I know because I was once an "alternative" choice by parents. They had tried the school's plan for after school tutoring by the student's math teacher. The student continued to fail tests, and the parents were desperate for some help. (He had gone from A's to F's in less than a year.) They pleaded with me to help. When I agreed, the parents asked for an extra book for me, but were chastised sharply for not following the "school's plan".

"You should have gone to . . .", the parents were told, and the plan of choice was explained.

This was so baffling to the parents. They just wanted help for their student.

Wouldn't you think that schools would appreciate a parent's desire to get help for a child? Well, schools may
tell you that they appreciate it, but you may find out that they are grateful only if the school's "plan" is followed.

(By the way, I did tutor the above-mentioned student, though only for a couple of weeks, and I was able to help him. He passed his first test of the entire year (and this was April) after only two tutoring sessions.) The most important thing, however, according to his parents, was his self image. He knew he "got it", he understood it, and his confidence soared. This student wasn't used to failure. He needed to feel successful again.

All kids want to feel successful. Success give confidence. If your student needs intervention, take the steps. Go to battle, if necessary, for your kids.


Catherine Johnson said...

I love this post.

My district is almost entirely based in Extra Help. That's all we ever hear about. If our child is having trouble, he is supposed to "be proactive and Seek Extra Help."

On the transition to high school night, the principal & the freshman guidance counselor spoke mostly about Extra Help and tutors.

The message was that we could expect our kids to "struggle," and that when they struggled the solution was to Seek Extra Help or hire a tutor, whose name they would be glad to provide.

We've had very poor results with Extra Help.

So far, what we've seen with our particular child is that if he needs Extra Help that's a sign that the teacher has some problems or that the curriculum has problems or both.

When he has an experienced teacher and a fairly coherent curriculum he doesn't need Extra Help.

My school absolutely does not consider the possibility that students needing Extra Help might be caused by problems on the school's side of the desk.

Catherine Johnson said...

You're teaching in a private school, right?

Concerned Teacher said...

Yes, I teach in a private school.