Friday, July 6, 2012

Learning About Learning

My son is failing algebra. As an English major I can’t help him. Well, not in the way I would expect to be able to help him. I would love to be able to open the book, flip to the page and see not the answers, but how to solve the problems.

But Algebra 2 does not make any sense to me.

Because my son goes to a Title I school in Baltimore County, they offer students who need help free tutoring services in Math and Reading. The system allows parents the freedom to choose from an array of tutors claiming a number of specialties that in my experience so far, they just may not have.

I first contacted Title I a few months ago; at the tutoring fair they handed me a booklet filled with data, information and resources; and the freedom and responsibility to choose the best provider.

The information is good, relevant, but something in this system is broken and I know broken when I see it because I have broken many things—and I’ve fixed a few too.

My first choice was Gap Busters. They looked good on paper and in person when I met them at the fair. If only they had called back. My son was set up for their services but they never contacted me.

A week later I chose C2 Education. The representative was also nice, friendly and at the fair—I should mention that most of the providers did not attend the fair. While C2 Education offers help for children struggling with standard math, they cannot seem to educate children in Algebra 2. Optimistically, they thought giving the tutor pamphlets would refresh her memory and help my son.

It did neither.

And so we went to A to Z tutoring. Now, I could call them A to F because my son is still failing. But, since he was already failing before he was set up with them and because he is failing not because they did help but because they didn’t, I won’t play with their name.

The representative/supervisor again seemed nice. My son does not need tutoring in how to be nice. On the phone I was told a tutor would contact me between “today and tomorrow.” That was a few tomorrows ago.

I waited Monday, then Tuesday; on Wednesday I left a voice message.

Three tutors later and my son is still failing Algebra 2. My son is learning a lot through this experience. He’s learning that you have to be your own advocate and that sometimes systems fall apart.

So, what do I do? I call; I complain; I write about it. And then I find a tutor who will help my son learn Algebra 2. And what do I learn? I guess it’s time to learn Algebra 2 and time to fix the system.

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