Rebecca Zook - Math Tutoring Online

Get your free copy of 5 Tips You Must Know to Stop Freaking Out About Math!

Call me free of charge to discuss your situation, and we'll see if I can help.

617-888-0160

Triangle Suitcase: Rebecca Zook's Blog About Learning rssfeed

I just can’t keep this a secret any longer

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

For a long time, I’ve been hinting at this… or feeling like it was expressed already… but it’s time for me to just come out and say it, loud and proud.

I am not a typical tutor.

What I do is not typical tutoring.

My results are not typical.

My students are not typical.

In fact, I’m coming to realize that what I do is SOO different from typical tutoring that I’ve realized it’s almost confusing when people use one word, “tutoring,” to describe typical tutoring and what I do.

So it’s time for me to really be clear about how the way I work is different, and how my students receive an experience that is completely different from typical tutoring.

Because I’ve recently heard some parents describe their other tutoring experiences, and it’s so different from how I work, I am almost flabbergasted.

Here’s what I am NOT about.

Kids have told me about working with tutors who just had them memorize and regurgitate a bunch of steps. Then the kid would just forget the steps as soon as they didn’t need to use them (like three days later), because they never actually understood what they meant. This is not how I work. I am not about “just getting you through it.”

I’ve had parents describe working with tutors who would literally say, “I managed to find the answer, but I can’t explain why.” That is not what I’m about. My intention is always to have YOU be able to get to the answer, AND clearly understand why.

I’ve heard about tutors who just made sure that the kid got their homework done. This is not how I operate. Our sessions focus on developing and retaining the skills you need to complete their homework on your own. We will work on very similar problems so you are really prepared to do your homework solo. If you only practice those problems collaboratively, you won’t feel secure and confident on your tests and quizzes when I’m not there.

I’ve heard about tutoring which is just about doing worksheet after worksheet after worksheet, in silence. I know that this approach works for some kids – but that is not how I roll. Our sessions are dynamic and totally customized to you.

I know that some tutoring is just a recapitulation of what is happening in the classroom. But if that’s already not working for you, why do more of what ISN’T working? My sessions are completely individualized to each specific student, even if the way they need to the approach the material is really different from how it’s being taught in the classroom.

And I’m also not just about grades or getting kids into an honors or AP class. I’ve seen it happen time after time that good grades are just a natural byproduct of truly understanding the material. When you focus on mastery, the grades just gradually happen on their own. And if you get a grade that is not as high as you want or expect, it’s just an indication that there was some gap in your understanding that we can address together.

I am not about ad hoc support or being a bandaid. I know that some students receive tutoring inconsistently in big lumps, like four hours the night before an exam. My experience is that this does not create lasting change, and it does create a lot of drama and stress. Math is like working out – something you need to do consistently if you want to see results.

Finally, I am absolutely NOT about tutoring as a way of encouraging dependency. Some schools have told me that they are concerned that if kids receive tutoring, they will be dependent on their tutor “getting them through it,” the kid will hold up the class because they are so confused, and then the kid will barely scrape by. That is not the way that I work. Students who work with me experience genuine mastery, make a positive contribution to their math classes at school with their confidence, preparation, and creativity, and earn grades that reflect their deep understanding and ownership of the material.

OK. Phew!!!! Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest about what I’m NOT about, let me tell you what I AM about.

Mastery. What I care about is MASTERY, and my work is about the mastery process. Like an elite tennis coach or an elite cello teacher, we focus on mastering the skills of math, increment by increment, to create permanent, transformational, holistic math fluency.

Individualization.
I am constantly customizing what we are doing and what I am saying to the individual student in every single nanosecond. We find ways of approaching the material that make sense with how YOU think. We keep you in the “sweet spot” where you are challenged and growing, but what we’re practicing doesn’t make you bored (it’s too easy) or anxious (it’s too hard).

Emotional Environment. We work in an atmosphere of trust and camaraderie. Our sessions are lighthearted and filled with commitment, mutual respect, and let me just come out and say it, love! Laughter is typical. Singing and dancing is encouraged!

Consistent Mentoring Relationship.
We work within the context of a long-term, consistent mentoring relationship where we both commit to your organic, aligned math transformation. Even though I am the tutor and you are the student, we come to the table with deep respect for each other and the understanding that we both have important things to contribute to our process. We work in an apprenticeship model where the student’s self-expression and intellectual contributions are nourished and valued – even if, in the current moment, they feel totally overwhelmed and helpless!

Empathy. I can feel if a student is frustrated, overwhelmed, or elated, and adjust my approach accordingly.

Emotional Reality. I explicitly address the emotional challenges of math. Even though emotions are basically NEVER addressed or even mentioned in most academic math contexts, I have found that the reason why people give up on math is because of how they FEEL. So it is essential that we address math feelings as an intrinsic part of the mastery process. If a student has a panic attack in class, breaks down and cries, or is feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, we talk about it, honor the feelings instead of suppressing or ignoring them, and develop strategies to help them become resilient no matter what emotions come up.

Individuality is encouraged.
It has been my experience that our greatest contributions and breakthroughs happen when we are being completely ourselves. All my students are encouraged to express their individuality during our work together, whether that means jumping up and down with excitement, making up original math songs, taking a quick break to jump or dance, feeling free to move around throughout the session if they are highly kinesthetic, or even just wearing their favorite purple tutu to our sessions.

It is a vehicle. At its core, what I offer is actually not really about math at all. It is actually about learning how how to overcome the seemingly insurmountable, and we just happen to use math as a vehicle to do that.

Support is normative. Since we’re all in a continuous process of refining our skills and expanding into our own personal genius, it is normal to continue to receive top-level support even after you start to excel. After Lindsey Vonn wins a skiing medal, she doesn’t stop training. Once you make CEO, you don’t stop receiving executive coaching and tell yourself, “I’ve actually got this down.” When you are a prima ballerina, you don’t stop rehearsing with your master teacher. The kinds of students I work with want to keep receiving mentoring and experiencing this one-on-one mastery process because they want to continue to do their best and keep learning, even after they start to initially do well. Because it’s about continuous growth and expansion, there is no limit to the potential of the process.

My clients have told me that working with me is like working with a life coach, or seeing a great psychologist. One family even coined a new word for their sessions with me – instead of calling it tutoring, they call it “Zookuring.”

But no matter what you call what we do, once you realize that you can go from hating math because it’s so confusing, to loving math and experiencing it as a source of joy and strength – “no one can take it away from you,” to quote a parent whose kid experienced this very transformation. And this experience of autonomy and self-efficacy in the face of a massive challenge has a huge positive impact on what students believe they are capable of, and ultimately, what they actually accomplish during their time on this earth.

Are you tired of “typical tutoring” that doesn’t address the underlying issues? Are you discouraged by support that doesn’t take into account what your kid actually needs to understand how math actually works? Are you ready to experience the kind of joyful, individualized transformation I’ve just described?

Then just click here to get started with your special application for my one-on-one math tutoring programs. Once your application is received, we’ll set up a special phone call to get clear if my approach would be a good fit for your child.

I’m excited to receive your completed application!

Sending you love,
REBECCA

Related posts:
Failure is not the enemy
On being yourself while doing math
How to help kids be okay with things being hard
What a Balinese dancing queen taught me about praise and encouragement
What I learned on the streets of Paris…and in a Dutch grocery store

2 Comments on “I just can’t keep this a secret any longer”

Leave a Reply