Tutors in the SCV: making the most of distance learning

Instructor/Tutor Kate Giannini, center, takes students papers from behind a plastic shield as they complete their math assignments at Mathnasium of Canyon Country in Santa Clarita on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

As of now, the computer screen is the new classroom. 

In a statement made earlier this week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said based on current epidemiological data in communities, more than 90% of students will begin the year with distance learning.

“Schools may be physically closed, but in California at least, class is still in session,” said Newsom. “While more work remains, districts across the state are in a far better position this semester to provide meaningful distance instruction to every child.”

Santa Clarita schools are no different than the other thousands of schools that have shuttered their doors in favor of the distance-learning model amid a pandemic.

Within the last two months, all five public school districts within the Santa Clarita Valley have adopted distance learning as the new norm, at least for now. 

And until Los Angeles County is recognized by the state as not having negative trends in regard to COVID-19, distance learning will be here to stay. 

While there’s a curriculum in place and the teachers are adapting, families could see challenges in distance learning for their students. 

In order to supplement the lack of in-person instruction, a number of parents have turned to private tutors and tutoring services to help fill in the gaps left by distance learning. 

“Business is booming because parents are recognizing that kids aren’t making the most out of their education (via distance learning),” said Mary Beth Inchalik, owner of Santa Clarita In-Home Tutoring.

“I would say I’ve probably had 50% more inquiries from families that want an alternative to the large-group remote option.” 

However, for some parents, who are unfamiliar with using any educational instructor outside the public school system, knowing when and how to find a tutor may be a daunting experience. 

Here are what the local Santa Clarita Valley tutoring experts say about finding a tutor that is right for your child and their education. 

Why a tutor?

One of the key components missing in a distance learning environment is the ability for students to have a face-to-face interaction with their teacher on subjects. While they remain reachable via email or other means of communication, it’s not the same for students to ask a question over Zoom. 

Whether that is because of the size of the Zoom class, or they’re shy or they feel they get lost in the shuffle, this lack of in-person interaction between teacher-and-pupil has resulted in some kids falling behind.

And this is where the tutor steps in. 

“In the last few weeks we’ve had a flood of people coming in and asking what to do,” said Suzanne “Q” Reed, the Mathnasium of Canyon Country center director. “Parents are finding out that they’re (students) are really behind and struggling already.” 

Reed said that this “falling behind” is for a handful of reasons, and parents have largely expressed the following concerns to her that she believes she and her tutors are equipped to handle: There is no direct teaching to students; the kids being online for a long amount of time is concerning; and some parents lack the confidence in their student only being at school between 8-11:30 a.m.

Reed said she, as well as other tutors, work to teach kids through ensuring that past concepts are cemented in as foundational blocks, while concurrently teaching the new concepts that they’re learning presently with their teachers. 

What makes the problem of having only parents and teachers instructing the students is also that the parents are not professional teachers. 

“Parents are struggling to teach it to themselves,” said Reed. “I feel glad that we can take that burden off.” 

Instructor/Tutor Marcos Osorio looks on as Bella Leos, 9, spins for stars at Mathnasium of Canyon Country in Santa Clarita on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

What to look for in tutor?  

Inchalik said that it might be time to start looking for a tutor if you see your child is not only falling behind in terms of their grades, but when they start to show apparent frustration while doing the class work. 

“I think kids feel a tremendous amount of anxiety and disconnectedness from their jobs  as students because every fiber of what they’re used to is not there (while distance learning),” said Inchalik. “If kids are expressing really negative attitudes toward (the material), then it’s obviously not working for them.” 

In terms of what to look for in a tutor and what services to expect or desire, is experience and professionalism first and foremost.

Inchalik has been teaching for 30 years and said that she and other tutors like her have provable credentials that can help them understand where a child is within 15-20 minutes of meeting them. 

“They need to know how to teach because there’s a methodology,” said Inchalik. “It’s a skill and it’s a skill that’s learned. 

Parents are advised, if they are seeking to supplement their child’s education during distance learning with a tutor, to favor a credentialed teacher or instructor, and not a highschool or college student. 

A tutor who is informed and knows what they’re doing, Inchalik said, should come in, give an assessment, and provide objective analysis. Then they should continue to assess, actually teach, and ensure that the student is checking off the common core standards. 

Tutors should be able to provide references or proof of credentials. And ensuring the safety of the child should be paramount. 

“A lot of these kids are just going with it and they’re falling behind,” said Reed. I would say (to parents) do something about it.”

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS