The pandemic and its corollary, social isolation, has literally arrested the development of adolescents, explained Kathy Hartley, retired LASD school psychologist, at a recent roundtable for MTC tutors. This is the time when middle schoolers should start to break away from parents and connect with their peers, a process that has been drastically impacted over the past year. Kathy volunteers her time with MTC to coach tutors as they help students who are going through tremendous challenges during distance learning. She explains that being a caring adult during the pandemic is an enormous help. Whether we see the impact or not, the connection is valuable, especially during the uncertainty of the last 12 months. Our goal as adults is to empathize and to help students feel understood. The chronic lack of engagement in academic work is a universal challenge for adolescents. Sometimes students complete assignments but fail to turn them in. She recommends, “If your student is disconnecting, or withdrawing, don’t take it personally.” Sometimes this disengagement or failure to take tasks to completion is a way for students to assert agency or find a sense of control in uncertain times. Empathy is key and MTC tutors show their students that they are not alone. As adults, tutors have the vantage point of living through difficulties whereas children and adolescents don’t have this perspective and might not understand the importance of investing in the future. Our students benefit from regular reassurances that “this too shall pass.”
Tutors can access more tips and resources to support students online at MTC’s “Tutor Resources” hub on our webpage.