Thursday, July 30, 2015

my top 5 tutor tips for classical conversations

Three years ago I stepped out of my comfort zone and into the role of tutoring. It was our first year as a CC family and only my second year homeschooling. To say I felt ill prepared was an understatement! But by God's grace, I jumped in with both feet and came out of that first year with a firmer grasp on the classical model and a deeper understanding of what Classical Conversations is all about. And boy did I have fun!

I laughed this past year when a long time friend of mine joined our community and I had the privilege of tutoring her son. I told her to be warned. She was going to see a different side of "me" as an Apprentice tutor. I am a fairly introverted person but in the tutor role I embrace a silly, over animated side of myself that makes tutoring the youngers a fun, and more memorable experience. My first tip --that isn't even a tip-- don't be afraid to be silly and a little over-the-top with your students. They will love it and your class time will be fun and enjoyable because of it. I've also noticed over the years that it also helps with keeping the students engages and therefore helps tremendously with maintaining control of the class. 

So as a new year is just around the corner, I thought I'd share some tips that have been extremely helpful for me in the role of tutor. You know, those things that you figure out along the way that make CC days run so much smoother for you, and for your family as well because you are not only serving as a tutor but are a CC mama yourself. Not only are you prepping to lead your class but you are also busy making lunches, gathering presentations and getting your own children ready to enjoy the day in Foundations!

So here are my top 5 tutor tips...

1. plan in advance
Simply put---don't save all of your planning until the night before. Plan ahead and make notes for each area of your Foundations morning, especially how you will present the New Grammar. 

I like to sit down at some point over the weekend before and look at the upcoming week to start generating some ideas. I make a few notes about a song or a prop that I will need for the memory work that week and check out CC Connected. I use the planner sheet below to make all my notes and have them all in one concise location.  Ideally, I like to have my plan for presenting the New Grammar laid out at least a day or two in advance. Now, I will say that there have been more than a few weeks when things didn't come together until the night before but that really isn't optimal. I have learned that I can roll with the bumps in our New Grammar {like when a song doesn't cue up correctly} when I have taken the time to memorize the memory work and become really familiar with the songs and motions to go with it. I don't do really well "on the fly" so planning well in advance is huge for me and I feel much less stressed when I have a plan in place.

Something else I started doing was planning with purpose during the quarterly tutor meetings that we have with our director. At first I was so overwhelmed that I just sat and tried to soak up as much as I could. Then I learned to jot down notes and ideas as they were presented down on my planner sheets. More often than not I leave those meetings with several ideas already in my plans. Don't work harder, work smarter!

{Scroll down to the bottom of the post for a link to the planning sheet that I use on a weekly basis.}

2. keep a 'packed' bag for CC day 
Having all of the necessary things for my weekly tasks already packed and ready to go is a huge time saver. 

Some tutors have rolling totes but I use my extra large ThirtyOne utility tote to keep me organized. I keep the essentials like dry erase markers, erasers, pencils, blank paper, my extra CD player, etc always ready in my bag.  I also keep a few basic review game supplies and charts like my class schedule, rules, etc. The night before CC, all I have to load in are the guide, my plans and any extras I need that week.

Along these lines, only bring what you really need. Trying to bring too much just stresses me out to be quite honest. I try to limit it to what I know I will need and this helps me keep it manageable.  When I feel pressure to have lots of stuff I step back and remind myself to keep it simple...stick in the sand works!

3. prep the night before
While I want my tutoring plans done well in advance, the night before is when I pull my bags out and line everything up by the door. If I can, I even load it in the car. 

I also lay out the kid's clothes {and mine!} so getting dressed on hectic CC mornings goes smoothly.  Don't forget presentations! Gather those up and line up the backpacks. Fill those water bottles and pack the lunches and snacks as well.  Something that has helped me along these lines as well is packing our lunches picnic style. I pack everything up together in a larger bag/cooler and bring paper plates for dishing it out. A small thing but a big change in the hurriedness of getting out the door on time. 

4. keep it simple
This could go under any of the above but I think it bears repeating here. 

Remind yourself to keep it simple. Remember your goal as the tutor and drill in a simple, yet fun, and reproducible way for the parents in your room. Don't feel pressured to wow the crowd with tons of props and bells or whistles. Be mindful of students in your class and present the material in a way that is engaging and fun for them. 

5. utilize your parents
Your parents are a priceless resource! Don't neglect them.

I did not do this enough my first year tutoring. Oh, how I wish I could go back and realize this truth sooner.  The parents in your room are a key to smooth class times, especially in the younger Foundations classes. Elect a room mom each week to help take students to the bathroom and pass out maps for map work. Give them tasks to help set up and clean up during hands-on science and fine arts. 

{click here for the tutor planner }

I am in no way an expert on tutoring and I'm always learning new tricks. I have learned along the way that these tips have made things run much smoother for me and I hope they will be a help to you.

I am so grateful for the role that CC plays in our homeschool and for the opportunity to serve my community in the tutor role.

Happy planning for Cycle 1! Come back soon for weekly breakdowns for Cycle 1 supplements. 

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