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Help? Tutoring college-level english to 5th grade level adult

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PREFACE: I use the word dumb to describe this kid because he's unintelligent and ignorant. I understand there is a negative, judgmental stigma to using that word but please understand that viewing someone as "dumb" doesn't mean that everyone should just give up on them. If you believe that you are unable to objectively read this post and help me help this kid, then please stop short.


If you want to help me help him, please provide some advice?




My bf's been tutoring a guy in college Algebra for about a month now. The guy's 18 years old, going to a city college, with a full ride scholarship to a D1 school - contingent upon passing the basic classes to transfer.


Let's call the guy Kevin. After the first tutoring session, my bf told me about how it went, and he was beside himself.

Kevin is by far the dumbest kid we've ever met. And I honestly HATE having to use that word, but it's true.

His parents say Kevin has a learning disability - and that might be true - but he's too far from college-level anything, to even attempt the work he's being given.


I especially hate calling him dumb because he's such a nice kid. He's sweet, but so ignorant... he thinks education is pointless because he's good enough at baseball to get invited to a D1 school. His parents have said that all through K-12, his teachers gave up on him, and they just labelled him and called him stupid. You can bet his parents have called him stupid to his face before... So this poor boy has grown up being told he's dumb, been ignored, and pushed to cultivate baseball instead.


And it's not just that he's dumb, but he's insecure and embarrassed about how dumb he is also. So this makes for a losing equation.

When I say he's dumb I'm also not blaming him completely... it's his parents, his teachers... His mom said, "Kevin's teachers just passed him in classes to get him out."



So how dumb is he? He can't add or subtract... at 18. Partly because he's dumb, and partly because he's scared to think. My bf asked "3-2" and this guy comes up with negative 1.

It's been awhile and he's getting the hang of adding and subtracting... that's it. My bf told me Kevin's done well in talking through problems with him, and solving some mostly on his own... but every test he takes he fails.


There's many more depressing examples, but I need to move on.


Kevin needed help with his english class. The tutors at the college haven't helped him much, they say, and he needs someone to revise and review his work. Kevin is all smiles, super sweet and shows me his work... and it's maybe 5th grade level work.


He capitalizes after every comma, doesn't know what a title to a paper is, and doesn't understand paragraphs or even sentences for that matter! I was shocked... I asked when the paper was due and he said, "We have plenty of time! It's due in two hours."

The writing was so bad... there were no introductory sentences, he didn't know what MLA format was even though the assignment specified what it was... he didn't indent because he didn't know how and I guess didn't care to look it up.


He doesn't know how to conjugate or use punctuation... He was so proud when he wrote a sentence like: "in the story by john, illustrates that we shouldn't help other countries."

First of all... it was an opinionated article about the US sending provisions to the rest of the world. He called it a story. Oh, and I taught him the word 'illustrates'. He doesn't know how to combine sentences, and his vocabulary matches that of a 2nd grader. He reads directions and immediately doesn't understand them. His brain shuts down.


In trying to help him write, I've engaged in discussions in the outline process. Anytime I asked him something, or to do anything, he would pause... wait for me to suggest something and just agree with whatever I said. If I don't make a suggestion, he sits there in silence, then 1 minute later goes "wait, I'm confused." Or I'll ask him to combine two sentences with the word 'and', and he doesn't know what 'combine' means...


And this kid is expected to write 3-5 page essays?! Kevin said he's never read a book, or anything for that matter, because he doesn't understand why people write stories. I had to explain to him that every show and movie he loves is a story, and many were books first. He looked at me like I just explained the secrets of the universe, baffled by the concept of books.


I hate to sound so close-minded with this kid... I hate it. I don't like to be this person but, if you can't tell by how I'm writing this post, I'm stressed and my brain hurts. He doesn't stutter, or speak with any inkling of diminished capacity but I want to tell his parents he needs to withdraw from this class and go back to the basics.


I think he needs to do whatever the lowest level writing class there is, and do it. His parents have come to expect me to come over and tutor, but they don't understand that as a tutor, I can't just write all the sentences for him. I admit, that's what I did at first just to get the paper done. But now I feel guilty, and his parents need to understand that this is cheating (they're dumb too by the way) that will only cause more problems at the D1 school.


How do I say this to the mom? Should I even say this? Or should I go back to basics with him myself and when he fails all the subsequent papers, they'll get the picture?



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Ok. I didn't get past the first paragraph. I have a son with several learning disabilities and ASD. I could not read your post any further. I suggest you and your bf don't tutor this person if you feel he is " dumb".


Are you putting your son in college classes? Are you hiring a tutor to help your son cheat in school?! I don't want to give up on this kid, I need advice on how to talk to the mom and how to help him. I've had many friends with learning disabilities, and while I'm not one to diagnose, he doesn't share anything in common with them and more in common with jocks.


If you read past my first paragraph, maybe you could've read that I HATE myself for using that word... but I just don't know what other words to use.

I would've LOVED and CHERISHED your advice specifically because you are the exact person I need advice from... but if you can't get past judging me then is there anybody else?


I feel terrible, and you've only made me feel worse by not giving me any advice and just judging me by the first paragraph.


Please, anybody out there willing to help me? I want to help this kid but I need to talk to the mom and I don't know what to say or what even to suggest?

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I can't say that I understand out of experience, but I wish you wouldn't judge me so quickly.


I think you're being defensive because you have personal issues with the word "dumb" and so you're refusing to give advice about HELPING someone. If you don't wish to HELP me help this kid, please stop posting. I'm waiting for real advice.

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Are you saying he should be in basic math, not college algebra? That he doesn't have the prerequisite knowledge for Algebra, and tutoring alone is not going to fix that?


Yes! Exactly. He doesn't have the prerequisite knowledge for college level algebra or the writing class.


Should I suggest to the mom that he move down a class? Or perhaps by continuing to write papers with/for him he'll learn by example?


He needs help in writing sentences, and in basic grammar... we gave him a 6th grade level book to read but he didn't know any of the words. The mom needs to understand that illegally writing papers for him is only going to cause him more problems at the D1 school because scholarships care about grades.

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My son turns 19 tomorrow. One of his severe learning disabilities is math. His learning ability for math is .04%. He also has a written learning communication disability. He has phonological learning disability . He has a hearing processing disorder. And ASD as well as all these disabilities but you know what, one day he will be an awesome animator .

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Again, I apologize for my word choice. I understand there is a negative stigma to the word I used. And again, I am sorry.


It is your every right to be angry, defensive, and want to berate me until you feel you've made me apologize or grovel enough... I say that, because you appear to want to make me feel bad enough before you stop.


Again... I'm sorry to you. I'm sorry to your son who I guarantee has more caring parents than Kevin. I'm sorry I disrespected you.


I beg you to please, help and not belleager me... I feel terrible and I want to help this poor kid.

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And I fully retract my word choice and deem it offensive. journeynow helped me find a better way to describe the situation.


Unfortunately we're online, and I can't express myself other than through text so you can't see how my bf is sitting here consoling me to stop crying because I'm scared a lady online and her husband aren't going to stop making me feel horrible after I've apologized continually.

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Yes! Exactly. He doesn't have the prerequisite knowledge for college level algebra or the writing class.


Should I suggest to the mom that he move down a class? Or perhaps by continuing to write papers with/for him he'll learn by example?


He needs help in writing sentences, and in basic grammar... we gave him a 6th grade level book to read but he didn't know any of the words. The mom needs to understand that illegally writing papers for him is only going to cause him more problems at the D1 school because scholarships care about grades.


I might do that, suggest he be moved to a class that will give him the prerequisite skills he needs for this one. If he moves to that class, then you can tutor him on those skills. But for this class it won't work for him to try to play catch up AND learn these new concepts.


And for writing, do not write papers for him. Be clear, you can't write his papers for him. Clarify what you can do for him as a tutor.

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How ignorant are you? The correct meaning of "dumb", that word you so carelessly threw out, means unable to speak. Does this boy not have the power of speech? If he can speak, "dumb" is a very derogatory word. If you do not know another word that mean not up to college level work, let me give you a hint. Use learning challenged in that area. Perhaps "not up to college level" would be a better choice of words. I teach children with special needs and I have never used the word "dumb" to describe ANY of them. Perhaps you shouldn't be teaching students with special needs. I hear your desire, but I don't think you have the tools. Help the boy with a thesaurus, phonics, and reading comprehension printouts. Have him learn to put together cogent sentences and then work on paragraphs, and then on to 5 paragraph essays. It will take time, but with patience and respect it can be done.

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OP, unfortunately this case is one of many. Please watch on youtube, as I can't link it, "Death Threats For Exposing A Sad Truth About College Athletes" under The Young Turks. This student only got into this university because of his value as a student athlete, not because of his grades or educational performance. Coaches and universities unfairly and unjustly allow these unqualified students into majors they cannot handle. What's worse is they know this and purposely bribe professors and use any other unorthodox methods in order for these students to just barely pass so they can keep playing their sport for the school. The university and coaches capitalize on abusing their student athletes, but also unfairly help them cheat their way through school so they can make big bucks.


My point being, this isn't about this student's disability. There's nothing you can do to help this kid because he should not be in the major or even in the college he is in. If he was not a student athlete, he would have never made it through the first semester. The times you claim the professors gave him a passing grade just to get rid of him is a misunderstanding. They are most likely being paid off and/or forced to barely pass him by his coach/university. The student athletes often do not care about the education they've been accepted into; only their sport.


I was a tutor previously in university and I understand your desire to help him. However, he doesn't have the skills you need in order to make it through college. If I were you, I would quit as his tutor and let someone else help him cheat his way through college. Then don't make a fuss and move on. If you don't...just saying, I personally wouldn't want to be that lady in that newscasting I mentioned. Don't worry, if this kid is good at baseball...he'll pass college, one way or another.

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The first meaning is what you described. But it does not mean completely unable to speak.


Moderators? Anybody want to delete this thread? I made a mistake and no matter how much I apologize for it I'm being yelled at... I came seekin help and I'm sorry to everyone I offended.


I swear from here on out I will never use the word dumb.

i can't imagine how much hatred I've received even after I've apologized... does it make you feel better that I'm crying? Begging? Just tell me what you want? Want me to die?

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