How do we help students in school today to prepare for their future in an outmoded system? We need to teach them to respect the system and to suspect it. We need to teach students to be pragmatists (it’s well worth getting good grades if you can manage it) and to be idealists (curious to learn more than the exam spec).
Academic success needs to be complemented by character development and thinking skills. We want to raise confident, resilient learners who are curious and collaborative.
To have a place in the modern world, we need to be deep thinkers, effective communicators, able to reflect and continuously improve. We need to be able to relate in order to contribute to a connection economy.
So: how can we raise students who are lifelong learners in spite of an outmoded education system? And how can we enable them to connect and to relate?
There was a sociological study conducted in 2003 by Annette Lareau called Unequal Childhoods. It was a fly-on-the-wall study of parenting in working and middle-class families. She discovered that there were broadly only two types of parenting, and those two types fixed the children within the socio-economic backgrounds of their families, whether intentionally or not.
The middle class families consistently practiced a type of parenting which Lareau called ‘concerted cultivation’. Conversely, the children from a working class background were taught to rely on ‘the accomplishment of natural growth’. The middle class children were taught to speak up for themselves, to converse with adults and to advocate for themselves. The working class children spent most of their time in the company of other children and adults existed in a separate sphere.
Of course, all students should have the chance to enjoy both ‘concerted cultivation’ and ‘the accomplishment of natural growth’. Students need to converse with both adults and peers with confidence.
The tutoring context is an opportunity for the kind of learning conversations that can really enrich a student’s vocabulary and communication skills. The mutual respect and trust of a good tutor-student relationship will teach your student to ‘smile, so the world smiles with them’.
I think that relationship-building with inspirational and caring adults is a fundamental benefit of tutoring.