As I was doing my usual rounds on the internet to discover what nuggets of educational joy I should base my bi-weekly blog post on, I discovered this thought-provoking post by Mark Sklarow, Executive Direct of the Independent Educational Consultant Association which discusses the obligations that IECs have toward the students, parents, school, college and program. In it Mark does a good job emphasizing the responsibilities of keeping parents informed, giving good advice based on solid information and reflecting the child’s actual abilities and challenges in a way that doesn’t patronize, cover-up or exaggerate.
Putting Ideals into Action
However, in practice it’s harder to put these ideals into action when you have a parent who “has paid good money” to see results for their child, or has unreasonable expectations. These pressures can be especially tough on tutors who, according to some horror stories I’ve heard, often been expected to package the child like a product to pitch to the parent’s alma.
Though most parents might not be the horrible monsters that these stories make them out to be, these tales do have the same effect as an Aesop’s fable. They inspire us to think on our moral rights and responsibilities professionally. Even if a parent never asks you as a tutor outright to write an essay or get their student into a highly competitive school that the student simply doesn’t have the capacity for, you may at some point have to decide if your job is to serve the parent or the student. However, to run an ethical and helpful tutoring business, you really have no other choice but to represent the needs of the student to the parent fairly and perform the actions that best meet the student’s needs rather than the parent’s desires.
How Tutors Can Better Manage Parents
There are a few ways that tutors can manage the relationship with parents while serving the student. For one, if you’re a tutor who offers SAT and ACT prep services to students, you could use testing data to establish a firm baseline for the student and communicate what can be done for the student in a realistic way. In this way, tutors could take a tip from marketers and underpromise and over-deliver on results. Avoid telling the parent what they want to hear, instead tell them what they need to hear.
You should also be sure to use learning analytics (such as the learning analytical software by us at Socrato) to firmly ground the parent into the reality of how the student is currently performing. Parents too often see their children as they want them to be, not as they actually are — though this is often the sign of a loving, parental mind, it can often lead to a lot of pressure on the student to reach goals that are often loftier than they can obtain.
Another way to better meet the needs of your student while managing the parental relationship is to offer the parent a way to easily track their child’s progress. You should also keep the parent informed of what they can do to help strengthen their student’s performance.
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