Updated: Sep 13, 2021
Watching your child struggle with schoolwork can be one of the most disheartening things you experience as a parent. And for your child, it can be frustrating and confusing, leaving them with lower self-confidence and disengaged from school altogether. Being a kid can be an emotional rollercoaster as it is, and adding in the stress of a pandemic has impacted even the most steady of students (and even us adults!).
The truth is, it’s very common for children to have trouble with a certain subject or a concept within that subject. And often they are able to work through these issues as a normal part of the learning process - even if it means spending some time on homework or meeting with the teacher. But sometimes it goes beyond what they can do independently, or what you as a parent or even the teacher can help with.
When they start to fall behind, it’s time to bring in reinforcements. The question is, how much help do you need?
Tutor vs. Academic Coach: What’s the Difference?
When you think of struggles at school you think tutor, right? Traditionally that’s been the only option available when extra help from your student’s teacher or the school isn’t available. But as the study of child development as well as society itself has evolved in recent years, it’s become increasingly clear that there’s often more going on under the surface when a student is struggling on a regular basis.
While tutors are great for addressing those surface issues that cause your student’s grades to drop on occasion (such as difficulty with a particular concept), a different approach is needed when the problem is chronic and spills into other areas of school and home life.
An academic coach focuses on the learning processes and root causes of learning struggles. Each child is unique and learns differently, and oftentimes poor academic performance isn't due to a lack of ability, but rather mental and emotional roadblocks such as anxiety, a learning disability, or difficulty handling life changes. That’s where an academic coach can help - going beyond grades and developing a personalized plan that adapts as they get to know the child.
Does Your Child Need Academic Coaching?
First, let’s talk about situations in which academic coaching is probably not necessary. If your child is usually a good student and is struggling with a particular concept or project, it’s likely a tutor will be a good fit for you. Especially if they haven’t had issues before now.
It’s normal to be frustrated when they don’t understand something, but if they are able to switch gears to other subjects or home life while still being “themselves,” then it’s probably something that can be resolved by working with a tutor. They’ll be able to walk them through the concept they’re having trouble with and help them gain the understanding they need to move forward with the class.
But sometimes the struggles become chronic, and your child’s demeanor and attitude toward school begin to change. That’s when an academic coach might be a better option. Sometimes the struggles start as a result of a trigger, such as:
A life change (a divorce, a death in the family, etc.)
A move, particularly during the school year
Social problems such as bullying or feeling isolated from others
Experiencing these events can create anxiety and sometimes depression, which often has a direct effect on school performance. An academic coach can help identify the source of your child’s struggle, and develop a plan that addresses their specific needs and learning style. Once the coach helps them work through some of the stress and emotions they’re feeling, their confidence, level of motivation, and even grades go up.
Hiring an academic coach can also be a good next step if you’ve already tried tutoring and it hasn’t helped. While your child may not have been through anything unusual, if tutoring hasn’t helped there’s likely a root cause that needs to be uncovered. It can even be as simple as one small struggle compounding over time, causing a ripple effect that has gone deeper and deeper. When they aren't meeting expectations in core areas such as reading and math, students can experience a wide range of emotions - from feeling frustrated and defeated, to alone and incapable. It becomes a self-fulling cycle that continues and often worsens until it's broken.
Other Situations A Coach Can Help With
Since academic coaches have the ability to tailor a plan to your child’s unique struggles, they can often help students with learning difficulties and differences. Whether they have trouble staying focused, studying for and taking tests, or keeping themselves organized, a coach can be a great addition to your learning team to facilitate a smoother academic process. As a neutral third party, the coach is often able to help students make progress and breakthroughs at a much quicker pace than going it alone. In fact, academic coaches are a great option if your child has fallen behind quite a bit and needs to catch up quickly.
A coach can also help if your child’s teacher has brought up the intervention or remediation process. It can be difficult to understand “teacher speak” and navigate the school system, and most academic coaches are former educators who are experienced in the process and what you need to know as the parent.
Once you know you need some type of help, the important thing is to carefully interview anyone you want to bring in - whether that’s a coach or a tutor. We’ve created a list of core questions that can help you determine the best fit. Grab the PDF here!
It can sometimes feel like you’re in this alone but rest assured many families are going through the same situation, and it IS fixable. Reach out if you have any questions about academic coaching or if you want to book a time to talk about your situation. We’re here to help!