As a student with low vision, I often struggle reading numbers and graphs in my classes. This isn’t because of a math disorder, it’s just that I have trouble seeing. I was fortunate enough to have tutors, who were teachers at my school, that were able to give me extra assistance with my assignments and help me realize that while my eyes may not like all of the numbers and tiny font involved, my brain loves math, and I am quite good at it- I even scored in the 99th percentile for mental math on my ACT (more on those accommodations here). Here are some of the ways having a tutor from my school helped me succeed in the classroom. Please note that these tutors were at a paid private tutoring service, and I never had lessons in the school.
They know the curriculum
In my first school district, there was a standard curriculum that all of the teachers would follow, so there was little to no differences in course content between teachers. As a result, my tutor was able to easily see what we did in class that day and explain concepts I was stuck on.
More likely to understand disabilities
The teachers who do tutoring outside of school hours really do care about their students and are highly likely to follow disability accommodations. My tutors were always awesome about using large print and computer apps during our sessions, something I really appreciated.
Access to textbooks
There were classes where I did not receive accessible textbooks on time, and the teacher would be frequently referencing a textbook I couldn’t see. My tutors had access to the same textbooks and would help me work through practice problems, drawing the problems on the board or having me write/type them out.
A look inside the classroom
While there wasn’t a lot of variation with course content, the teachers were dramatically different. Because they worked at the same school, my tutors could come observe the classroom for short periods of time and see what was going on, something that was incredibly helpful when I was routinely given inaccessible materials.
Get assignments from the teacher
One time, I was given an oral quiz because the teacher didn’t have time to enlarge my assignment. I got a 5 on the quiz…out of 100. After my tutor heard about this, they were able to get a copy of the quiz from my teacher and then we made it into an accessible format. The original grade shot up 90 points when I retook the quiz later that day, with accessible materials.
Help provide guidance
When I was in classes where my IEP was not followed, my tutors would give me and my family guidance on how to handle these situations, or give us ideas on what to say to administration. This was very helpful, especially when I was starting at a new school and didn’t know a lot of the staff members yet.
They can be helpful in stressful situations
I had a teacher make it abundantly clear to me that I would not be receiving accessible materials while in their classroom. Following this, my tutor received permission from the school to let me work on assignments in their classroom, removing me from the stressful environment and allowing me to focus on my classwork- which they enlarged for me. For more on my accommodations for print materials, click here.
Practice using assistive technology…or not using it.
If a student uses assistive technology or alternative technology resources in the classroom, a tutor can help the student learn to integrate it into the classroom, and learn how to use the different devices. And if the student has no technology in the classroom, like how I didn’t have a graphing calculator, then they can spend more time teaching the student how to do things by hand, a topic that some teachers may not cover.
Help demonstrate understanding
When I don’t receive accessible materials, I can’t complete assignments, and some teachers would assume this was because I was stupid, when the reality was that I couldn’t see. When I completed assignments with my tutor in an accessible format, I would get very high grades, which would serve as evidence that the content wasn’t the problem, it was how it was given to me- in small print I couldn’t reaed. Read more about collecting evidence for IEP violations here.
It shows the student is trying
We always let my teachers know that I was receiving tutoring once a week from a teacher at the school, and that went a long way in showing the teachers that I was trying, and making an effort in the class. We also told my case managers and school administration about my tutoring services, especially during IEP meetings.
Having access to tutors that taught at my school was an amazing resource that really helped me in the classroom, especially in classes where my IEP was viewed as “optional.” I highly recommend that students find a tutor like this- ask the teacher or head of the department at school for tutor names, or look at private tutoring places in town to see if there are any teachers from the same school, or at least the same school district.