Students should not feel ashamed to have tutors

January 24, 2016 — by Caitlin Ju

Many students here have tutors, whether they like to admit it or not. These tutors are, for the most part, not magicians armed with old tests who give their students an extraordinary advantage; they are merely assistants who help students understand what they are still confused about from class, supplying them with the best methods to approach certain problems and keeping them on track.

Some people believe students in AP and honors classes who need tutors should not be in those classes, because they view those students as naturally incapable. But the truth is, having a tutor is neither unfair nor wrong. A tutor is simply an aid to help a student learn, not necessarily to suddenly empower the student to attain high grades: A tutor cannot guarantee that he or she can turn a B- student into an A+ student.

Additionally, most tutors truly focus more on student improvement in understanding rather than in grades. Those who do target grades are among the few and are heading down the wrong path, a path that leaves a bad reputation for the rest of the tutors who rightfully care about student growth.

Moreover, just because someone does not understand a concept such as ideal gases or logarithmic functions immediately and needs a different type of explanation from the one their teachers are giving does not mean that he or she is not good enough academically and should not be taking the class.

Spending time with a tutor is still spending time to try to understand the material, and it actually shows that the student is working hard to comprehend the lessons. A student with a tutor has to finish the same work, study for the same tests and put in the same effort and time (if not more) as his or her tutor-less peers.

There are countless reasons a student might have a tutor, reasons that don’t necessarily mean that a student is struggling in class. For instance, many students seek the help of tutors because they lack at-home help. Unlike their peers, they do not have family members who readily remember how to differentiate equations or write a thesis. Other times, going to a tutor one or two times a week offers students a sense of comfort, as they know they have a valuable resource readily available to them.

While it is true that the school provides resources such as tutorials to students, it is not always possible during tutorials for teachers to offer the individual attention that many students require. Even free peer tutoring services, such as Helping Hands, are insufficient: Peer tutors are usually less qualified, helpful and experienced than paid, professional tutors. Tutors are then supplements to the resources the school provides, and students who take difficult classes benefit from the additional help and reinforcement that private tutoring offers.

A frequently spouted argument is that tutors offer a generous and unfair advantage to the rich over the poor, who cannot afford private tutors. But this advantage pales in comparison to the advantages the rich have over the poor with respect to quality of education, housing and community crime rates. It is no secret that the poor are afforded far fewer opportunities than the rich, including the relatively insignificant opportunity to be tutored. The nature of society will likely not change. It is the job of colleges, not students, to account for these differences and level the playing field.

A less common but still relevant argument against tutoring is that tutors hurt students in the long run by making them dependent on outside help. Once in college, the argument goes, these students will lose access to private tutors and their grades will plummet.

But this claim falsely assumes that tutors prop up students completely, when in reality, most tutors aim to improve students’ approach to problems and studying habits. Tutors act more as training wheels, and by the time students reach college, they are ready to remove these wheels and move forward, independently and confidently.

Given all the benefits to students’ actual education, we should not discourage students who readily want or need to seek the help of tutors.

It is time we stopped shaming students who aren’t afraid to get help when they need it. 

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