When we first opened Math Doctor, we were essentially “going it alone.” Although I would consider myself to be a professional educator, when it comes to setting up and running a tutoring business I was clueless. So, about a year before we opened I went to the Women’s Business Center and took some classes. The classes were informative, but I don’t think a classroom can adequately prepare you for all you will encounter the first year of owning your own business. I did join, and still belong, to a local networking group whose members consist of many small business owners. The members have, and still, provide much-needed support and advice, but even with that, there were many times that first year that I felt unprepared to make business decisions.
One afternoon a lady walked into the learning center and introduced herself. She explained how she was currently tutoring reading after school at local libraries, but was looking for a more central location to rent in order to cut back on her driving time and expenses. At the time, the learning center was just one large room and it would not work for reading. She told me if I would build her a room, she would rent it. Since one of my largest expenses at that time was rent, I seriously considered her offer. I called some contractors for estimates, and a few months later, we were building a reading room.
That decision has turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made. Not just from a business perspective, but also from a personal perspective. Having another educator to collaborate with on both business and educational matters has made a huge difference at Math Doctor. Some of the areas we have collaborated have been quite unexpected. As the reading tutor overheard me work with a young lady about memorizing her multiplication facts, she suggested I used pictures to help remember her facts. She shared with me some possibilities, but she told me it is most effective if the student creates their own image. Before the end of the hour, the student came up with the image of a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cone with 4 scoops (that look like 8s) to remember that 8X4=32 with “32 flavors” written on the cone. There is no way that brilliant image would have happened if not for everyone involved. I have since been able to help many other struggling students using similar imagery.
I realized the power of collaborative learning for students in the classroom, but there were few opportunities for me as a classroom teacher to collaborate with other teachers. At the learning center, we are always looking for team members that are willing to collaborate to offer our clients the best environment to learn. We currently have three math tutors and three reading tutors and I am grateful that each contributes to the overall running and success of the business through their own unique talents and perspectives. At Math Doctor we are following the advice of Charles Darwin when he said, "It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed."