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Tutor Doctor Calgary

Proudly Serving Calgary & Surrounding Areas

Getting ready for a new school year

Is it back to school time already? Yes it is! But while a lot of people tend to focus on things like school clothes and school supplies, there are some other steps you can take to help ensure a happy and productive school year.

 

1. Set up a calendar

Really, get organized. Your school will probably have a schedule online that’s full of important dates ranging from days off to assemblies. And your teachers will almost certainly have calendars for your courses, listing assignments, tests and more. It will take some work, but try to put all of it onto a single calendar. Doing it on paper, maybe on a whiteboard, offers the advantage of letting you see an entire semester, or even a whole year, at a single glance; a digital version, such as Google Calendars, would let you access it remotely and on your phone (and you’ll be able to share it with parents and tutors). It can be intimidating to see all that work stretching out ahead of you, but if you make it, then pay attention and make the most of it, you’ll be able to stay on top of your schoolwork, and thereby reduce your stress.

 

2. Think about your health

If you don’t look after your health, your grades will suffer. So try putting together a simple list of things to do that will keep you as fit as possible. It can be as simple as a daily or weekly checklist that includes things like a bit of exercise, eating some fruit, having a smoothie once a week, going for a walk or run — healthy stuff like that. Don’t make it too intense or it will add to your stress levels. Just make sure you don’t let yourself slide into an unhealthy lifestyle.

 

3. Get a hobby

Yes, school will keep you plenty busy, but you should still try to find time for something you love, something that’s 100% your choice. There are so many activities out there! From filmmaking to painting to geocaching to long-distance running — not to mention old-fashioned things like reading and writing. Don’t let it get hectic and stressful, but try to find something positive you can do when things get anxious.

4. Come up with a stress management plan

Stress is a huge problem among students, especially as they approach their university applications. Fulfilling all your duties at home and at school (not to mention socially) can trigger stress and anxiety. Everyone experiences stress differently — how does it hit you? What are your personal stress reactions? It’s important to learn how you handle stress. Watch out for unhealthy behavior and physical side-effects, and be ready to give yourself the care and attention you need. Try especially to figure out what eases your stress. You might be surprised how simple it can be — even the simple act of taking a walk, or lying in bed listening to music with your eyes closed, can bring you some peace. It’s also important to talk to people about your stress. Teachers, parents, tutors, all can help you. Don’t suffer alone!

However you prepare for school, we at Tutor Doctor wish you all the success in the world. Go get ‘em!

 

Just what is stress, exactly?

Stress is a huge part of our lives. There’s just no escaping it. Young, old, rich, poor, it doesn’t matter — we all experience it from time to time. Sometimes it affects us very badly. But what exactly is stress? Where does it come from …

It’s time to stop struggling with math

There’s just no getting around it: if you want to go to college or university, you’re going to have to have at least some math credits under your belt. In theory you might be able to find a way of getting around it, but in practical terms math is a necessary part of education. And if nothing else, a shortage of math courses will certainly close off a very long list of college majors, and, by extension, future jobs and careers. So there’s just no choice: even if math causes you fear, frustration or a general sense of hopelessness, you still have to slay that dragon.

If you struggle with math, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Get help. Seriously, no joke: get help

Math is one of those subjects where the answers are very clear and without wiggle room. Some courses allow teachers an opportunity for a bit of subjective interpretation if necessary, but this is really not possible when it comes to math. It’s all about precision and accuracy, which means that if you’re struggling you’re likely to hit a brick wall.

Why suffer alone? There are so many ways you can get help from people who really know their business, whether it’s an in-home tutor, a one-on-one tutor, a study group or just a geeky aunt. You definitely won’t regret it.

Again: don’t go it alone. This applies to all ages, from elementary school through high school and beyond.

2. Always ensure you understand the basics

Math isn’t just about formulas and functions — there are plenty of terms that are very important to comprehend. Sum, mean, limit, polyhedron, sine. There are just so many words that describe so many things. It’s actually an aspect of mathematics that often gets overlooked, so don’t make that mistake. Learn all the terms related to your courses, and understand not just their definitions but what they mean in the context of the work. This will give you a deeper comprehension of math. In turn this will give you more confidence.

3. Don’t just study — drill

Methods for mastering other subjects might not work a well with math. Staring at a math textbook is unlikely to help you understand if you’re struggling. So in addition to studying, try practicing as well. Math drills are easily available online, and your teacher will probably be more than happy to provide worksheets. There are also a ton of phone apps that will do the job. If you think of math as a skill — like carpentry or drawing or basketball — then you’ll understand the need for practice. That’s how you get good at something, right? Practice! Doing so will not only improve your skill, but reduce any intimidation you feel.

 

4. Be gentle with yourself!

If you’re stressed, find ways of relaxing. If you’re feeling like a failure, find ways to increase your confidence. Actually dealing with stress, struggle and failure is a key part of life. Let’s face it, life is going to throw a lot of obstacles in your way, and as strange as it sounds, overcoming your math struggles can improve your life overall, as well as your prospects for happiness and confidence. In other words, conquering math can help you conquer life.

Don’t start stressing about college too early

We’re used to high school seniors to feel stress about the college application process. It can seem overwhelming: the ACT, the SAT, extracurriculars, charity work, tests, assignments, presentations, projects … it’s all so real, not…

News Item: Helping with homework usually backfires

It may seem like a perfectly reasonable thing to do: your kid has homework and needs help, so you sit down with them and provide a helping hand. Many of us can remember sitting with our own parents and puzzling through some tricky bit of schoolwork. But a new study by Tutor Doctor suggests that rather than helping, this “assistance” may wind up hurting.

According to the research:

“In the study, 8 out of 10 parents actually attempted to help their children with homework and the number of parents who reported their children as ‘easily frustrated’ was nearly 75 percent. As a result, nearly 93 percent of families reported that homework has had some impact on the overall stress levels of their home. Regarding specific subject areas children find most challenging, more than half of the respondents reported math as the most difficult subject area for their children.”

In other words, helping with homework makes the whole experience a more stressful experience. As if it wasn’t difficult enough to start with!

In these days when both parents work, it can be hard to find the time to really give students the kind of help and support they need. And in fact, the data suggests that helping might only make things worse.

As Tutor Doctor’s president, Frank Milner said in the above-quoted article, “When parents attempt to help their children with difficult homework, they have all the right intentions … They just want their child to succeed in school. The problem is that it usually backfires. The parent is tired from a long day at work. Their patience runs thin. Both the parent and the child get frustrated. That’s when we get the call.”

Stress can be such an integral part of education that we don’t even notice it. But as our skilled one-to-one tutors know, it doesn’t have to be this way. The help of a talented, personalized tutor, especially one employing a personalized academic game plan, can work wonders on a struggling student.

The pros and cons of taking a year to travel

Many countries have a “gap year” tradition, whether it involves backpacking across a foreign country or getting a job and saving money. Mostly the idea is to gain practical experience of living and working in the world, and hopefully to meet people, and, of course, have fun. But is it a good idea? What are the risks involved? The answers depend on what you’re hoping to get out of it.

First off, while it might seem as though a gap year might help a subsequent college application, such is usually not the case. Colleges get mountains of applications and they simply can’t sit and sift through your life-affirming experiences — they focus primarily on grades and test scores. So if you’re hoping to improve your desirability as a college applicant, you might want to think of something else (preferably something that directly affects your application).

That being said, it could help your college application if you could show you got a job and saved money for school. This would indicate that you’re industrious and take your education seriously, and a job related to your major would also demonstrate passion for that field (and you might make some contacts that could serve as references). And even if you’re not trying to impress anyone at an applications department, it can feel mighty good to have a little nest egg when you’re young.

One big reason to consider a gap year is to just plain take a break from school. By the time high school ends you might well be exhausted and dreading the prospect of jumping right into the next stage of your academic career. In that case, putting some time as a traveller or a volunteer might leave you recharged and rarin’ to go. At the same time, you might prefer to put it off till later — chances are you might need a break before starting your senior year of college, and there are options your school can help you with, such as completing a semester abroad.

Don’t forget that taking a year off will very likely put you a year behind your friends. This might not be too big a problem, as your friends will (hopefully) always be your friends, while a gap year can end up with you making new friends. But it is something to keep in mind. And be careful financially — the last thing you want is to get into debt before you even start college.

In the end, it really comes down to what you want, because a gap year will mostly benefit your inner life. Whether working or wandering, you can expect to meet new people, have new experiences and build some new ways of looking at the world. There will always be pressure to focus on school, and there are always financial issues to consider. So weigh the decision, and go with what works best for you.

The pros and cons of taking a year to travel

Many countries have a “gap year” tradition, whether it involves backpacking across a foreign country or getting a job and saving money. Mostly the idea is to gain practical experience of living and working in the world, and hopefully to meet people, and, of course, have fun. But is it a good idea? What are the risks involved? The answers depend on what you’re hoping to get out of it.

First off, while it might seem as though a gap year might help a subsequent college application, such is usually not the case. Colleges get mountains of applications and they simply can’t sit and sift through your life-affirming experiences — they focus primarily on grades and test scores. So if you’re hoping to improve your desirability as a college applicant, you might want to think of something else (preferably something that directly affects your application).

That being said, it could help your college application if you could show you got a job and saved money for school. This would indicate that you’re industrious and take your education seriously, and a job related to your major would also demonstrate passion for that field (and you might make some contacts that could serve as references). And even if you’re not trying to impress anyone at an applications department, it can feel mighty good to have a little nest egg when you’re young.

One big reason to consider a gap year is to just plain take a break from school. By the time high school ends you might well be exhausted and dreading the prospect of jumping right into the next stage of your academic career. In that case, putting some time as a traveller or a volunteer might leave you recharged and rarin’ to go. At the same time, you might prefer to put it off till later — chances are you might need a break before starting your senior year of college, and there are options your school can help you with, such as completing a semester abroad.

Don’t forget that taking a year off will very likely put you a year behind your friends. This might not be too big a problem, as your friends will (hopefully) always be your friends, while a gap year can end up with you making new friends. But it is something to keep in mind. And be careful financially — the last thing you want is to get into debt before you even start college.

In the end, it really comes down to what you want, because a gap year will mostly benefit your inner life. Whether working or wandering, you can expect to meet new people, have new experiences and build some new ways of looking at the world. There will always be pressure to focus on school, and there are always financial issues to consider. So weigh the decision, and go with what works best for you.

Looking at volunteering? Think big!

Volunteering can be a huge part of a high schooler’s life — indeed many school boards won’t graduate you if you haven’t put in your hours. But instead of simply signing up with a local charity and putting in your time, how about setting up your own charity and making a go of it yourself? You’ll still end up doing some good, and end up with a nice portfolio piece (not to mention valuable experience) as well.

First, come up with your idea. Maybe there’s a child in your neighborhood who has medical expenses. Or maybe an old person who has fallen behind in her bills. Maybe a playground needs to be cleaned up or repaired. Maybe you could line up several projects over the course of a school year. Chances are you’ll find all kinds of need right in your community that you never knew about. Ask around. Maybe a small group would be willing to put you in charge of a specific project.

Second, make sure you’ll get credit for the activities you’re planning, assuming your school requires volunteer hours. Talk to the staff at your high school, or even the school board. Explain what you’re hoping to do, and include all of it: fundraising, publicity, goals, everything. Don’t do a single thing unless you’ve got the green light.

Third, if money is involved, make sure you document everything. Every nickel should go on a spreadsheet and be documented with bank balances and receipts. Chances are your project won’t be big enough to require tax information, but make sure you don’t break any tax laws.

Now it gets fun. Build a website, start a Facebook group, take photos, make videos. Come up with a name for your little nonprofit, maybe come up with a cool logo. Think about fundraisers if you need money, such as race sponsoring, local concerts, you name it. Document all of it online.

Yes, it sounds like a lot of work, and it’s not for everyone. But it’s a fantastic way to meet people, and you’ll get tons of real-world experience that will serve you well down the road as you apply for college. It will also help your job hunt.

The key is to do everything by the book. Watch any money that’s involved, follow any and all rules and regulations. The great thing is, pulling it off will be proof to the world that you have ideals and that you can handle responsibility. Go for it!

 

Is something up with the ACT exam?

In a recent Washington Post article, students expressed dismay in the scores reported for the essay section of the ACT exam. Many young people who have previously reported good grades and positive feedback on their writing say they were graded much worse on the ACT’s essay portion than seemed reasonable to them.

The reported solution to the low grades? Paying extra $50 to ACT for a re-scoring of their essays:

“One Rhode Island student took the ACT in September, getting a 19 on the writing section and 30s on the rest of the test. ‘He’s a pretty good writer,’ one of this student’s parents said. ‘I thought the 19 was odd.’ The student asked for a re-score and was rewarded with a huge bump, to 31. There was no explanation for what the parent called a ‘very dramatic’ change. ‘I was a little disconcerted.’”

The paranoid among us might wonder if there was a sneaky cash grab going on, a backdoor solicitation of funds in exchange for a higher score. Certainly, that is an accusation being thrown about in social media in a big way.

However, there are a couple of factors to consider. First, the policy of ACT is to refund that extra “re-scoring” money if the score is revised upward. In other words, ACT doesn’t benefit financially from boosting scores.

Secondly, the essay portion is separate from other portions of the exam. Indeed, many colleges don’t even consider the essay portion (though many ivy league schools most definitely do). It’s an optional portion of the test, even though around half of all test-takers do write the essay. What’s more, the current writing prompt is new, and may well be taking people by surprise:

“The new essay requires students to ‘develop an argument that puts their own perspective in dialogue with others’ in response to a contemporary issue. A sample topic on the ACT website is the influence of ‘intelligent machines.’”

That’s quite different from the previous essay format, which required students to explain an opinion on a given topic.

Finally, the essay is graded by two separate people, using a documented rubric. In other words, while it may be upsetting to get a lower score than expected, don’t jump to conclusions as to the cause, because as things are set up, ACT has no financial motive to push your score lower. There’s no reason therefore, to believe that anything is amiss.

Teachers fired for bad-mouthing students

Ah, the staffroom. It is a special place. A refuge for teachers, a place for them to relax, have a coffee or eat their lunch, and chat with other teachers. And what do they talk about? Oh, the usual things one might find in a modern workplace: family matters, politics, sports, that sort of thing. But one thing that is not so well known is that while teachers do talk about their students, that talk is not always appreciative and flattering; it’s sometimes very negative. Indeed new teachers are frequently shocked by the negative, even insulting tone that sometimes invades the staffroom. Again, it’s not a universal phenomenon by any means, and it’s really not something you would encounter from anyone employed by Tutor Doctor, but it does happen.

And now, because times have changed, that sort of talk is entering social media too.

In the staffroom, the fear is of being overheard by a student. But social media is a particularly dangerous medium, as a group of teachers recently found out:

“The conversations were at times profane and disparaging of students or parents. In one conversation, a teacher, apparently angry at a student’s mother, writes ‘I CANNOT WITH HER I HOPE HER STUPID SON FAILS ALL HIS CLASSES.’ In another, a teacher calls a student a ‘dumb a–.'”

The teachers were using Slack, a chat app that is widely used for workplace collaboration — and was used at the school itself, located in Rhode Island. They frequently posted the staffroom griping on the app. But then someone hacked the app, pasted all the disparaging comments into a Google Doc, then shared it with the whole school. In the blink of an eye the doc was being read by students, parents, administrators, everyone.Three teachers have resigned in disgrace, though their names have not been released to the public.

Social media has exploded with outrage; it appears most parents were unaware that teachers were even capable of the statements revealed by the hack. Some veteran teachers have shaken their heads in dismay, believing the staff in this case were incredibly sloppy in documenting their opinions. Others are questioning whether this sort of talk should be as routine as it is.

One thing that is certain, however: living in the age of social media makes teacher complaining a far dicier proposition.

 

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