How I’m Avoiding the Learning Challenges I Experienced With My Own Children

Sponsored by Paper Growing up, I was a straight A student

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Photo: Shayne Rodriguez Thompson

Sponsored by Paper

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Growing up, I was a straight A student. Well, that was until fourth grade fractions. I just didn’t get it and despite being in a “talented and gifted” classroom, my teacher did not offer me the classroom support I needed. Instead, decades later, I still recall her addressing me with frustration and impatience. From then on, I decided I was “bad at math,” and no one could convince me otherwise. 

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Photo: Shayne Rodriguez Thompson

A year later, I transferred to a private school with a smaller student-to-teacher ratio — the tuition for which, of course, came at a great cost to my mother — and managed to make it through the middle school years with mostly As and a few B+s in math.

Then freshman year, I was once again met with a concept that didn’t click for me. I somehow placed into Algebra I instead of pre-algebra like I expected, and I didn’t understand any of it almost from Day 1. Again, I had a teacher that was almost entirely unwilling to help. She did not want to make time for me after class, and instead of calling me to her desk or coming to mine, she would shout responses to my questions across the room. It was humiliating and demoralizing, and completely made me want to stop asking questions altogether.  Mid-way through the first semester of class, I essentially gave up. When the school year was over, I knew I had flunked for the first time ever. I was devastated and frustrated. 

I was attending a private school at the time, so I was given the option of going to summer school or getting a private tutor. My mother chose the latter since I would be spending a month visiting my abuela in another state. It turned out to be the best decision she could have made for me at the time.

By that point, I was left with zero confidence in my math skills, I was embarrassed and disappointed. But, the one-on-one tutoring I received that summer, gave me the boost I needed to get back on track. My mother hired a wonderful, young teacher who was incredibly patient and kind. 

She broke down each and every step of the algebraic process for me, and even helped me learn fractions after I confided in her that that was where my problems with math had started. She saw me as an individual and met my unique needs with creativity and flexibility. She genuinely cared about not just my mastery of the concepts, but also about my success, and she helped me feel capable as a student, which helped me feel more mentally and emotionally prepared for the years of math ahead of me. These days, Paper can help school districts connect students to amazing professional tutors just like mine, that are available to support students online 24 hours a day, using diverse, comprehensive learning methods that are tailored to each child’s needs.

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Photo: Shayne Rodriguez Thompson

That’s exactly what I strive to do for my own children, who are currently in kindergarten and fourth grade. They are both honor roll students, and I’ve discovered that they do well with hands-on activities and learn a ton from visual aids like videos, online games and illustrated books. I even homeschooled them independently during the tumultuous  2020/2021 school year, using many such tools, and they returned to public school ahead of the curve, the following year.

What I’ve learned through my own experiences as a student and now a mom of two is that when it comes to academic success, teachers and parents help students the most by using diverse learning strategies and methods. A one-size-fits-all method does not work, because each child is an individual and learns differently and at their own pace. While standard curriculums aren’t always conducive to that, we as parents have a multitude of tools to help our children get the academic support they need, right at our fingertips.

When I struggled with math twenty years ago, my mom didn’t yell at me. There was no punishment. She believed in me and advocated for me, making sacrifices so she could provide me with the best help possible, and that was before the Internet when options were far more limited and much less accessible.

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Photo: Shayne Rodriguez Thompson

Services like those offered by Paper are now readily available to help meet each child where they’re at academically. Paper allows for customized, one-on-one tutoring sessions with flexible schedules, using diverse teaching methods – that still align with their districts’ standards – so that students are equipped with the skills and knowledge that they need to be successful and feel confident. Now that’s something students, educators and parents should all embrace. To learn more about getting academic support for your child, visit Paper.

I grew up in the ‘90s and early 2000s — before we had access to incredible resources like Paper right at our fingertips — and when I think back on it now, I can only imagine what I would have been able to accomplish if I had the kind of support Paper provides whenever I ran into a topic I struggled with in school. It would have helped my self-esteem and confidence when it came to math tremendously. I was always capable of doing well, I just needed extra help on occasion. Kids just like me can have that without humiliation or embarrassment now. They can have it without cost to their parents and they can have it exactly when they need it, thanks to Paper and that truly has the potential to have a positive impact on the academic trajectory of countless students.

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