Monday, April 4, 2005

April 2005: Building Close Relationships with Students While Maintaining Boundaries


April 2005 America Learns Strategy of the Month

What do you do when your student asks you to call her at home so you can talk some time, but you're unable to accept her phone number?   It's so important that tutors and mentors are equipped for these types of situations, especially as the tutoring and mentoring year begins to wind down in many communities.  This month's strategy is from a tutor with the University of Pittsburgh’s America Reads program who handled this situation effectively.  We hope it's helpful to you and to any children you serve.

University of Pittsburgh 

The Strategy


Created by: America Reads at the University of Pittsburgh
Topic: Your Relationship with Your Student
Grade Levels: Preschool - Sixth
Arrangements: One-on-One

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Situation: I had to explain to a young child why I could not accept her phone number and call her at home while making the child feel important and maintaining professionalism.
Step 1: One day, I was helping a young lady in the second grade classroom I was working in get a knot out of her shoelace. She had been taking an unusually long time changing her shoes. When I attempted to motivate her to get ready faster, she handed me a small piece of paper with a bunch of numbers scribbled on it. When I asked her what it was, she drew me in closer and put her arm around me. "That's my phone number. I want you to call me," she replied in a matter of fact tone.
Step 2: Then I explained to her that while I was extremely flattered, we were the type of friends who do all of our talking at school. In order to not hurt her feelings, I set aside special time each week for the two of us to get caught up on each other's lives.
Step 3: I want my students to feel like they can come to me with anything, whether it's their problems at home or their excitement about a new video game. I strive to be very involved in my students' lives. This was a learning experience for me because I had to find a way to connect with my student and maintain professionalism while doing so.
America Learns Note: If it's the end of the year, and if you can first get permission from your supervisor (and possibly even your student's guardian), consider offering to exchange mail or e-mail addresses with your student.  This could be a good way to not only stay in touch with your student -- letting her know you're still interested in her life and well-being -- but also a great way for your student to practice her spelling, letter-writing and handwriting skills. 

Only ask for her address if you are completely committed to writing.  Asking for her address but never using it can hurt your student's feelings, making her wonder if she did something to upset you towards the end of your tutoring or mentoring relationship.

If your organization is an America Learns Network member, find a number of related strategies.

How Have You Addressed this Issue?

We’d love for you to share your thoughts on this strategy by typing in a comment below.

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