Tutoring business offers more than just help with homework

KAPA‘A — A learning specialist operating a professional tutoring business on Kaua‘i says there is more to tutoring than helping someone do their homework.

“My goal is to build supportive, individual relationships with students and their families that bring improved understanding, practical strategies, and inspiration for academic success,” said Mark A. Carey, an educational consultant who runs Kaulele Education Services.

After 12 years on the North Shore, Carey moved his office to the Seto Building in 2010. Now centrally located in Kapa‘a, he said it will accommodate clientele from as far as Kalaheo and Ha‘ena.

Carey said Kaua‘i values  — the respect for elders, the importance of family, and a general feeling that status does not define someone — is part and parcel of education.

“There are wonderful things in this culture that can’t be provided in other environments,” he said. “Aloha is a real thing.”

After a career as a classroom teacher in California schools, Carey went into full-time tutoring, evaluation and diagnostics by establishing QWERTY Educational Services. He eventually sold his interest to a partner.  

“Because I fell in love with Kaua‘i, I finally moved here and opened Kaulele,” Carey said. “Life is short and if you have a dream, then don’t wait.”

Professional tutoring is a value concept that Carey said has to prove itself. Having a one-to-one with a professional is an expense that people find difficult to justify when tutoring is traditionally having an auntie help with homework.

Carey said professional tutoring is mastering a challenging subject or strengthening overall study skills. As a learning handicap specialist, he is also equipped to tutor people with mild mental retardation, severe emotional problems and behavior disorders.

“As a learning specialist, I am credentialed and trained to evaluate specific learning disabilities and other factors that may be causing school problems for students of all ages,” Carey said.

Carey said Kaua‘i students don’t have the same pressures and expectations that face very competitive districts, and that the drive for higher education is more needed on Kaua‘i. Until recently, he students could expect to sustain a living without an education.

“The stakes are higher now and the economy makes the stakes even higher,” he said. “Kids are moving away from the family because they can’t afford to be here any more.”

Carey said students today need to understand the value of learning for its own sake, but often need a personal relationship with an adult to establish and reach their educational goals.

“It does not matter if they are behind, in the middle, or ahead; my job is to make them feel successful, and that is successful in whatever the environment,” Carey said.

Clients are divided into three main groups.

The first are kids who are flunking a class, and usually making a last-minute call to help pass an upcoming test that will decide their fate. This intervention is for kids who might otherwise drop out without support.

The second are kids with specific learning disabilities. They are highly motivated, but struggling in a certain skill area and need help to achieve.

The third group are the high achievers. Their families want them to reach their full potential.

All the groups need help with something. They all have strengths and they all have challenges and obstacles to overcome.

“My goal is ‘just don’t drop out’ for one boy, and if we accomplish that, then fantastic,” he said. “With others we are shooting for the stars.”

Getting to know the students first helps Carey to focus on their strengths before starting to work on an anxiety-producing problem. He said it’s part psychology and part instruction.

When kids struggle, they associate it with failure, and even though it is a small part of who and what they are, Carey said they need someone to put it in perspective. To them, he said any problem is central to their lives.

“It is about understanding the kids and getting them to understand themselves and how the brain works,” he said.

“The easiest part of the job is developing the rapport.”

The office setting works because it gets the kids away from school and home, he said. It allows them to open up and do exactly what the parents and teachers want them to do.

“I believe most kids really like quality adult interaction,” he said.

They talk about anything that influences academic well-being. He said delinquent kids aren’t necessarily bad, they just don’t see a path to success.

“Laziness comes from not knowing what they can do to be successful, he said. “Success breads success. You only have to show them one time.”

The old tutoring concept is about dealing with “what’s wrong with the kid.” His concept is to help the kid be the best student they can be by building strengths and confidence.

“We don’t bypass the problem, but you don’t always have to approach it directly,” he said. “Sometimes the power in tutoring is just to have an independent party reinforce the same message that mom has been saying, but they stopped listening.”

Kids who have undiagnosed disabilities often fall between the cracks, Carey said. While parents suspect a child needs help, he said it often takes an independent evaluation to ensure schools are adequately addressing a learning problem.

“Sometimes that means helping parents understand their options and sending them back to the schools to get that done,” Carey said. “Armed with more information, they know what to ask for and how to do it.”

Once these kids have their disabilities identified, he said they can establish eligibility for extended time on exams.

Students who are getting by, but remain unmotivated or have no joy in learning can also benefit from tutoring, Carey said. An evaluation can identify learning strengths and challenges, and apply the appropriate level of tutoring to build confidence, organization and motivation skills.

Tutoring continues through the summer months, to include help in preparing for college entrance exams.

This summer Carey is introducing a series of tutorials called Two Days to Better _____. He will meet with a student for two 90-minute sessions over two days to work on a goal using a custom-tailored approach.

For more information call 822-4411 or visit www.kaulele.com.

• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or tlaventure@thegardenisland.com.

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