A Note on Mission from the Founder, Alexander W. Merrill
Alliance Tutoring has a unique mission in that it serves its students holistically, in both coaching and academic tutoring support. Many other services offer strictly academic support, with tutors that are able to help with the content itself. Likewise, many other services offer coaches that assist a student personally with organization, planning and the like. But our tutors provide both forms in synchronicity. Why? Here are the five core reasons:
- The Skillsets Are Inextricable: The reasons for doing so are myriad, but begin with that fact that these two sets of skills are inseparable. How well a student does on a test in pre-calculus can directly be linked to how well they studied for it, how effectively they were able to complete the homework, how well they fostered a strong relationship with the teacher, and how well they planned for the test itself. Failure in all of these categories would produce a poor test score in all likelihood. Of course, they could be exceptionally well-organized, could be close friends with the teacher, and plan their time with precision, but if they don’t understand pre-calculus to any degree at all, they will still fail. So both are important.
But while we can see the likelihood of their success through these different lenses, you can’t cleanly separate the two. It’s hard to argue, for instance, that a student who remembers to bring her book home with her won’t have a better understanding of Biology than the student who forgets it in their locker. In other words, good executive function leads to good academic understanding. The inverse is also true. While there are exceptionally rare students who can coast by on sheer intellect, the students with a superior understanding of academics have that because they employ good executive function. Academic understanding can be almost universally be traced to strong executive function.
- Executive Function Coaching is Critical but Institutionally Absent: Getting the extracurricular practices in place is integral to success. Good teachers do tend to provide it: they will segment assignments into pieces and make those pieces due at intervals rather than dump it all at once on students. They will structure activities in 20-minute segments that are diverse in form rather than lecture at them for an hour while they fall asleep. They sometimes even will utilize planning systems on google classroom or the like, but it’s very rarely provided on an institutional level, and almost never provided in a holistic or comprehensive fashion. These practices are typically seen as good pedagogy, and supported by professional development exercises, but in my experience in the seven schools I taught in suggests that there is zero follow through on utilizing these systems. The reason is astoundingly simple: it’s hard. To divide an assignment into pieces is more difficult than simply providing the whole enchilada, and teachers typically lean on heuristics in designing curriculum because they’re all overworked. Structuring a class intentionally to cater to students with ADHD or working memory challenges is much harder than just winging it based on experience, especially in February and March when fatigue sets in. It’s simply not possible to provide institutionally, given the numbers, so administration typically pays it lip service through professional development, then sweeps it under the rug.
- Every Student is Different: If a mechanic tries to fix a car with a saw, he’s not going to get very far, yet that’s exactly what happens metaphorically when an academic tutor attempts to support a student that needs only 25% academic support and 75% Executive Function. For some kids, the academic skills come easily; it’s mainly the organization & planning that needs support. Likewise, there are some kids that are exceptionally well organized and have no trouble keeping up in class, but need help understanding complex topics in Calculus if they’re going to get ahead. Every case is different, so a variety of tools are needed as an instructor to truly support each student. Typically, academic tutors will understand how to teach, say, Physics very well, but can’t support a student in executive skills. Similarly, there are many EF coaches available, but few also know how to teach writing effectively. In both cases, they end up using a saw to fix a car. Our tutors do both exceptionally well. They are also master diagnosticians, a skill that comes with experience. Figuring out what a student needs in the first session is critical, and misreading them will render the tutoring worthless.
- It’s a Proven Formula: We have helped countless students over the years accomplish their goals using this formula, and typically once cemented, the tutoring relationship lasts for years. A 77% majority of our clients maintain their relationship with our tutors past the first academic year. A full 97% of high school students we work with for over a month ultimately get into a college or higher institution of learning of their choice, 94% of our college students continue with us through graduation, and most use our career guidance services. It works for two reasons: one, it’s holistic and gives comprehensive support and second, our tutors actually have the expertise to be able to provide it effectively. Without one of those two elements, it would be likely to fail. With both, it provides a system that is exponentially better than average tutoring.
- We do Whatever it Takes… Really, Whatever: Most teaching personnel, through no fault of their own, have limitations: they are limited by time, by curricular requirements, by the number of students they have, by their training & background. These limitations ultimately limit their effectiveness with students. We do not suffer from any of these limitations. In fact, our credo is to do whatever it takes, anything at all, to help a student succeed. We see them as little brothers and sisters and defend their wellbeing and success with the same pathos as we would a member of our own family.
For these reasons, our mission statement essentially wrote itself. It’s a pledge we take seriously, a potent combination of academic and personal mentoring:
Alliance Tutoring & Coaching specializes in assisting teenagers and young adults who have strayed away from their academic path and are in need of additional support and guidance to give them the edge they need to succeed. We are a collection of experienced educators with elite educational backgrounds who help these young people regain their path through a uniquely holistic approach, combining customized executive function and academic support to ease inner tensions and refocus their lives.