EDITORIAL: Re-Examining Our Tutorial System


By Tam News Staff

Our current schedule allows for two one-hour tutorial periods a week where students go to a “home room” class where they can either stay and do homework or get a pass from one of their teachers to go to a different class.

Last year the Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) teachers voted to uphold our block schedule, including tutorial, but no changes were made at that time.

Principal Julie Synyard says she likes having tutorial as part of the week. “My own personal view of tutorial is this is time for [students] to take care of your business,” Synyard said. Looking forward, she wants a collaborative examination of tutorial to see what needs to be changed, if anything. “I want to talk to [students and staff] and ask them what is working for them in tutorial and what’s not.”

According to Tam librarian Mary Crowe, many of the ideas for new tutorial systems at Tam are inspired by the idea of Response to Intervention (RTI), a method that helps identify when a student is having a problem so the school can intervene in stages.

A drastic change to the tutorial system is not necessary, but alterations could be made to improve the efficiency and effectiveness for all students.

Requiring students to report to certain teachers, classes or review lectures due to poor grades, missing work or absences might improve certain students’ grades, but keeping up with schoolwork is and always has been an individual responsibility. Alterations in the tutorial system should not marginalize students who are falling behind. Instead it should offer them support on the specific subjects with which they need help.

High school is the time for students to learn life skills that are needed for college and beyond, because although regimented systems are helpful, students need to be self-aware in order to succeed. To get help, students need to ask for it, and that is part of what tutorial teaches in its current form.

In order to take full advantage of the extra time tutorial offers students and help a wider range of students, review workshops or workshops on broader subjects, like how to write a college essay, should be offered.

The Tam Writing Lab, a workshop that is being instituted this year, will provide peer tutoring that students can opt into or be referred to by their teachers. This is led by English teacher Jessica Variz.

Many teachers have non-academic skills that are not a part of the usual curriculum, like finances or sign language, that students might be interested in exploring. Organized and well-advertised workshops in areas like these are a great opportunity for students.

Ultimately, tutorial is a time for students to practice responsibility and self-motivation. Students would benefit from workshops or review sessions during tutorial, but the administration should not add rules or requirements that interfere with students using that hour in the way they choose.