What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL)?


As SEL becomes more popular in schools, parents might be wondering what it is, how it impacts student achievement, and how it can be reinforced at home. Committee for Children, whose mission it is to positively transform the social-emotional well-being of 100 million children annually by 2028, defines social-emotional learning this way:

“Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success.

People with strong social-emotional skills are better able to cope with everyday challenges and benefit academically, professionally, and socially. From effective problem-solving to self-discipline, from impulse control to emotion management and more, SEL provides a foundation for positive, long-term effects on kids, adults, and communities.”

As more and more schools begin to adopt the practices of SEL, you may hear from your children that they are engaging in self and collective check-ins with teachers and/or guidance counselors, as well as learning breathing techniques, yoga, and meditation.

In the same way that adults learn to manage their stressors to be better parents, spouses, and employees, children should also learn to develop their self-awareness and utilize positive mechanisms for dealing with their anxieties. Whether an elementary student is concerned with the monster under the bed or a high school student is concerned about the possibility of an active assailant in his school, stress and anxiety is real. And we are better people who can contribute more to society when we learn how to effectively respond to the things that worry us.

You can reinforce the SEL that your child is learning in school by asking your child to show you some of the tools and strategies they’re learning. What kind of breathing techniques are they being taught? How does meditation help them with slowing down and being present? Can they provide an example of how breathing has helped them through a difficult situation?

What is the impact of SEL on academic achievement? Communication, getting along with others, and learning to problem solve are all skills taught in an SEL program. These skills help students build a healthy, supportive, and successful academic environment.

Meeting Parents Where They Are - Literally and Figuratively

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Lately, our highest number of calls are coming from the Maple Lawn and Fulton neighborhoods of Howard County, the Hanover areas of Anne Arundel, and the Southern neighborhoods of Baltimore City, including Federal Hill, Locust Point, and Canton. We also hear quite a bit from families in the Owings Mills and Reisterstown neighborhoods of Baltimore County.

What do all of these counties have in common? They’re all considered part of the Central Maryland region. And that is the region that MTT covers.

But every so often, we hear from parents in Montgomery County, PG County, and Calvert County. Just recently, a dad from PG County called to inquire about our services. “Sir, we are so sorry to inform you that we are not as far out as PG County just yet.”

He calmly replied, “But I read every Google review you have. You’re the best and I want my son to have the best.”

Well that certainly felt good to hear!

“Let’s do this,” we told him. “If you can meet one of our tutors halfway in the Hanover or Odenton area, we can make this work.”

“Sold!” He exclaimed.

As certified teachers who work with students from a variety of academic backgrounds, we pride ourselves on meeting students (and families) where they are. In this case, it was a wonderful (and funny) reminder that not only do we meet families where they are from an academic (and one could argue, figurative) standpoint, but we also go out of our way to meet parents where they are — literally.

Top 5 Productivity Tips for Parents

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Life is busy. Period. Whatever phase of life you are in, life can feel busy and overwhelming. We partnered with Rebecca Teaff, owner of Redstart Creative, to find out what she does to stay on top of things! Below is her guest blog post on productivity hacks for parents!

Over the last ten years I have started two businesses, become a mom, gotten two dogs and become more involved in volunteer work. All of these roles are amazingly fulfilling to me, but juggling them can be difficult.

Friends have asked, “How do you do it?” The answer is: “As best I can.” And to be honest, many days I don’t do it well.

The secret? There is none. There’s no magic trick or answer that will help you do it perfectly. However, what I can say is I’ve learned some things throughout the years that have helped set me up for success and helped me to live this amazing, sometimes messy life, “the best I can.”

Here are my top 5 tips for productivity for busy parents.

1-Have a to do list.

Things is an amazingly powerful To-Do List app for my iPhone and computer. I add tasks all the time when they come up and then when I plan my week, I can plan time to do them. That gift card for teacher appreciation week? Send in field trip money? I can add them all and get them done in time. The best part is to add items as you remember them and push them back to days when they might actually get done. https://culturedcode.com/things/

2-Use an electronic calendar with sharing capabilities.

There are many jokes circulating around about my color coded calendar but I stand firm on it because it works! iCal is much more than a simple calendar.

  • You can color code the type of events - work, family, school etc.

  • You can schedule recurring meetings for weekly to dos like laundry, meal prep, etc.

  • You can easily invite family members to events and include the location.

  • The alerts are a great way to remind yourself of a scheduled event.

  • I love using iCal to just block off non-meeting items that happen daily, like school drop off. This keeps me from overscheduling.

  • The simplest form of meal planning is adding it to your iCal.


3-Use ALL the functions of navigation apps, even in day to day travel.

Almost everyone uses Waze (including my baby-boomer parents) but it’s still worth mentioning.

  • You can link Waze to your iCal on your iPhone and Waze will automatically update if you would like to start driving to your destination based upon your calendar.

  • Saving Favorites is essential. Baltimore is known for its traffic and I use Waze even if I know where I’m going. Many times it has alerted me to construction or traffic and re-routed me so I can make it on time.

  • I have even started using Waze for quick local trips around Towson, MD. Redstart’s office is close to Towson University and traffic patterns can change based upon when classes get out.


4- Eliminate decision making on simple things in your life - aka simplify.

Decision fatigue has been a theme in entrepreneurial conversations recently. Everyday we make thousands of decisions. Establishing a routine or planning ahead can eliminate many of them.

Plan your meals ahead of time. This does not need to be complicated; make a note on your calendar each day for a week in advance. I use a Pinterest board with super easy recipes and grab a few a week to make and reheat. We also eat the same breakfast on weekdays and I have a fast system to get it done.

Have a few go-to outfits of clothing- aka what is your “work uniform?” What is your “weekend uniform?” For me it is a blazer, top and jeans for work, and on the weekend it is a t-shirt and jeans.

Take a look at what you do everyday and take the decision making out of it.

5-Automate whatever you can!

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that you don’t have to do it all. When you can automate a process, do it! Scheduling posts on social media, setting up processes for client intake and contact forms: it all helps!

On a personal level, you can and should also automate any of your home shopping. Whether it’s dinner, wine, clothes or diapers, it can all be automated to come to your door with little to no effort. Here are some of my favorite companies that have made my life so much easier:  Amazon Prime, The Honest Company, Club W, Stitch Fix, Peapod, Grove Collaborative and Galley Foods.


Rebecca Teaff is a creative entrepreneur, problem solver and dreamer. Rebecca is the owner and founder of Redstart Creative. Redstart Creative is a branding and digital marketing company building and supporting brands for women-owned small businesses and nonprofits in the educational, environmental and family support space.

Rebecca also has a virtual franchise of a whole food nutrition company and she loves helping to spread healthy living around the world.

Rebecca has a passion for helping change-makers that matches her passion for running a business. Over the past ten years Rebecca has been involved in multiple volunteer roles including - Marketing Chair for the Association of Fundraising Professionals Maryland Chapter and National Association of Women Business Owners - Baltimore Chapter, as well as receiving Maryland’s Top 100 Women Award in 2014 and 2018.

Preventing Summer Slump

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You might be familiar with this scenario. Your child goes back to school after a summer full of swimming, vacationing, fun in the sun, and sleeping in. He is excited to make new friends, catch up with old ones, and learn about his new teacher; but he didn’t engage in or participate in any academic upkeep during his break. His first progress report comes home and you’re confused. He was on grade level the year before, but now his teachers are concerned that he is falling behind. How did this happen?

This is what experts refer to as “summer slump” - the loss of academic skills and knowledge over the summer when children are not in school. During summer slump, students lose the academic gains they made during the school year, which leads to regression and unpreparedness.


Have no fear! MTT is here!
We recommend that parents sign up for tutoring at least once a week with one of our certified teachers, preferably two. This consistency allows students to retain the information they learned during the previous school year, and prepares them to enter the new year with academic readiness!
Some of our summer options include reading reinvigoration, where teacher tutor and student agree on a novel (or several smaller books for the younger children) and do fun activities and projects around the book content. This option keeps reading levels strong, but also gives the student freedom to express himself in a way that is different from the typical school year assignments. We also offer a math master program where students and tutors will work on honing foundational math skills, as well as learning new concepts that will both challenge and excite students as they apply their knowledge to everyday tasks.

Whether you want your student to engage in academic maintenance, or use the summer break to take her learning to a new and higher level, we look forward to serving you and preventing your child from falling prey to the summer slump. 

Follow the link below for more information on our one-on-one summer tutoring packages!


Nanny Search 101

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Are You Thinking About Hiring A Nanny?  Here’s What You Should Know.

Guest Blog Post by Trish Woodward of The Nanny Network

Many parents, at one time or another, have thought about hiring a nanny.  The reasons for starting a nanny search can run the gamut from the exhausting price of childcare, to being, well, exhausted and needing an extra set of hands around.  Whatever the reason, once a family is ready to start a search, many begin the process like freshman year of college—hopeful and unaware to what lies ahead. Today, we hope to give you a crash-course in how to approach, facilitate, and conduct a nanny search.  

Welcome to class—Nanny Search 101.

Start with a Conversation.

Many families get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, that they fail to sit down together to discuss the very basics of a nanny search.  Why do we want to hire a nanny? Can we afford it? Can we commit to the process? Is now the right time? Are both parents in agreement with hiring a nanny?  What does the job description look like? What would we want a nanny to do? Setting aside time to have a discussion will help you to decide whether to move forward, postpone, or not to move forward with a search.  If you decide to move forward, this conversation has more than likely brought into focus something that resembles the makings of your nanny job description.

What costs are involved?

Obviously you need to pay your nanny an hourly wage and you’ll need to do a little diligence to learn the competitive wage ranges for your area.  If you decide to work with an agency for your search, you’ll need to factor those costs into your search budget as well. It’s also important to remember that whenever you hire someone to work in your home you become their employer.  Being an employer with an employee comes with an additional price tag. Since most families want to stay on Uncle Sam’s good side, many make the wise choice to work with a household payroll provider. These companies provide affordable payroll, tax, and compliance solutions for household employers.  Generally, it is safe to assume that your employer taxes will cost approximately 10% of your nanny’s gross annual salary.

Agency or Self-Search

If you’re committed, organized, efficient, and have the time, conducting a nanny search on your own is possible.  However, working with an agency provides families peace of mind to know that a team of qualified professionals are guiding and facilitating the entire search from start to finish.  Agencies are expert nanny recruiters skilled at creating a set of realistic expectations for a family’s nanny search and further, know how to navigate the process efficiently and effectively.  Agencies have all the tools in place to recruit and maintain a large pool of qualified candidates with whom they stay in close contact. At the Nanny Network, we interview each candidate, verify details within the application, speak with every childcare-related reference, and complete a driving and criminal background check.  Additionally, we provide ongoing training, resources, guidance and support throughout the nanny’s career. Just remember that if you decide to not use an agency, be sure to check your nanny’s references and run a background check.

Become Self-Aware.

Hiring someone to work in your home is a huge commitment.  By hiring a nanny for your family, you are inviting someone to come into your personal space on a consistent basis and they are going to get to know you very, very well. They will see you at your very best and perhaps at your very worst. How would you describe what it’s like to live with you? If married, how would your spouse describe what it’s like living with you? Asking yourself these questions and preparing honest answers will surely add to the success of the search. Once you make the hire, everyone in the home needs to be ready to build a relationship with this person. And like any relationship, it requires honesty, communication, and connection. With that, you’ve created a solid foundation for a healthy nanny-family working relationship.

Create the Job Description.

I think it’s always best to start with your bucket-list or wish list of what your nanny profile looks like.  Write on paper your dream nanny for your family. Will the nanny be expected to do any household work? Will they need to walk the dog? Run errands?  Do they need a car? Would you like help with the laundry? What do the hours look like? Should they be able to help with homework? Do you want a nanny who runs and plays with the children?  Do you want a nanny who cooks? Bakes? Works weekends? Good with discipline? Should she be a good swimmer? Think of every aspect that you possibly can and get it all down on paper. Once you’ve done that, rank those items in order of importance.  

Create the Abridged Job Description.

Now that you’ve created a person on paper that most definitely doesn’t exist in this world, it’s time to create the job description with realistic expectations.  You’ll want to include the hours, ages of children, salary range (pre-tax), and what a typical day looks like. Then be sure to include some of those things at the top of your Nanny Wish List.  It’s also great to advertise any benefits you’ll be able to offer - vacation days, sick days, mileage reimbursement, paid holidays, healthcare stipend, etc. While you won’t include all the items from your wish list, hang on to it as a tool to facilitate the conversation during your nanny interviews.

Prepare for the Interview.

While you want your nanny candidates to meet their would-be charges, it’s best to save that for the second round of interviews.  Allowing for limited interruptions and creating a child-free atmosphere where you can be completely dialed-in to your thoughts and the task at hand, is the best way to conduct a successful first interview.  Prepare a list of questions that are relevant to your expectations and family needs. When drafting a list of questions to ask, I always suggest to my families to think of those hypothetical situations that are important to you.  Let’s say you need a nanny who can be flexible with her schedule because there may be times you’ll ask her to work late. Instead of asking, “Can you be flexible with your schedule?” Ask a hypothetical question, “If there was a time where I needed to stay late at work and my wife was out of town traveling for work, would you be able to stay later?”  I’m almost positive that you’ll get a good feel for the nanny’s flexibility based on how the question is answered.

Getting to know the Nanny.  

Interviews are always nerve wracking and if not done with purposeful thought, can prove to be unproductive.  While it’s impossible to really get to know someone in just one meeting, there are simple ways to expose the more genuine and natural side of a person.  For example, I’ve encouraged my clients to use the word “meeting” instead of “interview” when confirming that first in-person interview. That simple exchange of words takes the edge off almost immediately.  I also suggest to ask more conversational questions initially to break the ice. Most nanny agencies will provide highly detailed nanny referral documents that highlight the nanny’s interests and talents outside of their childcare profession. Use that information to ask questions that create an opportunity for the nanny to talk about themselves and the things that bring joy to their lives.  When you create an atmosphere where it feels more like a conversation and less like an interview, you are bound to see a more true and natural side of the nanny.

Selecting the Nanny.

After you’ve navigated telephone interviews, in-person interviews, and working interviews, you’ll decide to make an offer to that one nanny who fits your family best.  With that decision, you’ll need to make the job offer and while it’s uncomfortable for most to talk about money and expectations, you have to do it in a way that is direct and crystal clear.  We suggest for our parents to use an offer checklist to facilitate this part of the nanny search process.

The Offer Checklist.

The Offer Checklist outlines all the basics: the typical schedule, hourly rate, benefits, PTO, start date, and any household chores that might be expected beyond childcare.  Once you’ve delivered this checklist, allow the nanny some time to review it before you talk through it together. This creates the opportunity for both parties to address any concerns before committing to a hire or to a position.  The Offer Checklist is an effective tool that helps to avoid any would-be uncomfortable conversations down the road. You’re also, once again, setting the groundwork for a healthy, open, and honest line of communication—-paramount for the nanny-family relationship.  

Get it in Writing.

Once both parties have agreed to the terms outlined in the Offer Checklist, you’ll need to create a contract or agreement.  At the Nanny Network, we call this the Nanny-Family Agreement which is signed by the parents and the nanny. It covers all that was outlined in the offer checklist as well as many other important aspects such as: agreed upon discipline techniques, cell phone and screen time usage, how to handle medical emergencies, etc.  We encourage our parents to use the contract as a tool and to revisit it together every three or six months as the children grow and needs change. Facilitating a process that involves revisiting the agreement further promotes a collaborative relationship built for success.

Set up Payroll.

Remember as a household employer, you’ll need to create a way to pay your nanny based on the payroll schedule agreed upon and to further assure that your process is in compliance with state and federal laws.  There are many affordable household payroll companies that provide these services so that you don’t have to worry or fuss with these necessary tasks.

Plan Your Back-up Care in Advance.

Once you’ve gotten to the finish line and have hired a nanny, most families that don’t work with an agency, are often taken off-guard when their nanny needs a day off.  It’s important to remember that your nanny has a life outside of your family and will need time off for personal reasons. Creating a second line of defense is critical when hiring a nanny because, like most of life, the need will arise at the most inconvenient of times.  The Nanny Network is armed for such situations where we have a team of back-up care nannies at the ready to come in and save the day. And what’s more? Many of our families will use our back-up care services for date nights as well!

Start to Finish Timing.

If you’ve managed to stick with me and read through all of the above, you’re probably thinking, “Wait, that was a lot.  How long does it take to hire a Nanny?” The honest and unpopular answer is, it depends. Nanny agencies are often mistaken for having a rolodex of available caregivers at the ready and for being magic match-makers.  But the truth is, it’s a process. While The Nanny Network does have a large network of nannies, other factors like timing, location, the hourly rate, and the job description can narrow the pool of candidates. It’s also important to note that the parent’s level of participation to the search greatly impacts the speed and success of the process.  Since parents and families will still push for a quantifiable answer to this question, we feel comfortable giving the range of 3-6 weeks for a permanent nanny search.

While there’s certainly much more to consider for a successful and efficient nanny search, the above is more or less your nanny search crash course.  If you’d like to learn more about the services offered at The Nanny Network, please visit our website at www.nanny-network.com and for families with a need for more comprehensive household help, consider a family assistant (for school-age families) or a Sidekick,  www.Household-Sidekick.com.

Organized Home = Learning Conducive Environment

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At Maryland Teacher Tutors, we know that it can feel nearly impossible to keep a home clean and organized when children are involved. Heck, it’s hard to keep a clean and organized home when children aren’t involved! Nevertheless, there are ways to keep some order in your home. And there are definitely things that you can do in your home to create an environment that is conducive to learning. We partnered with Mary Cate Claudias from Charm City Organizers to leave you with some tips!

Purge or temporarily put away everything unnecessary. Once you get started, you’ll see how easy this becomes over time. Having less means less to clean up! Rotate toys, electronics, and books so only a few are out at a time.  By purging your home from unnecessary things, your home becomes less cluttered, which helps to eliminate distractions when it’s time for reading or homework.

Create easy-to-maintain systems for you and your kids. Closet systems have come a long way and if you have the space to create lower rails and drawers that they can reach, putting things away can involve them in a positive way. PS… it also means they can more easily pull it all out – so supervision is good here! Cube and bin storage for books, electronics, and toys are a necessity. Away with the gigantic toy bin or box! You could even have cubes and bins specifically for educational resources so your kids know exactly where to go when it’s time for learning!

Get them involved. Kids like to be part of things. And they should learn this valuable life skill early. It can be fun. Make a game or song out of it for younger kids. Who can put the most pieces away the fastest? Find everything red, find everything orange, etc.  And don’t forget those positive rewards people! For older kids, assigning chores is a fantastic idea. This involves them in the process of giving the home some order, which also encourages order in their school binders and class notebooks.

At the end of the day, a home free of clutter encourages a mind that has less distractions. And a mind that has less distractions is a mind that can focus on studying, completing assignments, and being academically engaged. So, go forth and organize! Your child’s brain will thank you for it!

Does My Child Need Extra Help?

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Parents often wonder how to tell if their child may need extra help. Though every child is different, and every age is different, here are a few tips that may indicate a need for help:

·      Sudden discomfort – your once happy and content student is suddenly anxious talking about school. It isn’t just the shift in discussion where you feel like you’re pulling teeth trying to figure out what happened in school that day now that you have a middle schooler; your child actually becomes uncomfortable discussing school.

o   For some children this could manifest as actual physical discomfort, such as fidgeting or avoiding eye contact.

o   For others, it could be avoidance, such as an immediate and deliberate change of subject.

o   For a few, this could manifest as irritation or aggression. Some students are having such a hard time that they get upset even discussing things that are school-related.

·       Grade decline – it is perfectly normal to have off-days and topics that just don’t click. A bad test grade or two is not always the best indicator that help is needed (could be sleep related, something outside of school, etc.) But, a steady decline in a class grade or grades should be a sign that something is wrong. If your child has dropped a letter grade or more and doesn’t seem to be on the upswing, it may be time to look into some outside assistance

·      Key words – really listen to your child and their attitude when discussing school. What may once have been “fine” may now be “really hard.” Some students drop hints about not knowing what they’re doing, or not wanting to raise their hand because they feel their question is “stupid.” These small additions to your conversations are signals your child is sending to communicate their struggle

·      Trust your gut – you are their parent. You know them best. If you think something is wrong and they need help, then you are probably right. Have an open conversation with them and see where they are and how they feel 

Note: remember that you are the parent. Even us teachers get frustrated because we understand the content our own children are learning, but for some reason just cannot help or tutor them. This is normal. A tutor is a professional who can come in and play a very particular role in your child’s life. They develop a different relationship of respect and communication with your child.


Understanding Interims

    This time of year, many parents have received their child’s interim, or progress report, and the teacher’s notes that come with it.  Many schools offer these mid-semester reports in order to communicate with parents, allow the student to make any necessary behavioral or academic adjustments, and to ensure that each child is set up to be as successful as possible.  

     You don’t want to miss this opportunity to connect with your child’s instructors and understanding their interims will give you an inside look into their performance. Whether your child experiences anxiety about receiving grades or is indifferent about it altogether, interims can be an extremely helpful tool for you and your student. Progress reports are usually issued halfway through the grading period and outline your child’s schedule and their grades thus far. These progress reports often include notes from teachers about how your child is behaving in class and whether there are any issues that need to be addressed. Receiving these grades and behavioral notes in the middle of the grading period allows your student to make necessary adjustments. For example, teachers may notice that your son’s grades are lower in classes where he sits further back and encourage him to schedule an eye exam.  Your daughter may have no problem with her math assignments at home, but struggles to focus when in class surrounded by her friends. Some kids may still be adjusting, like 9th graders who aren't used to the workload of a high school student. Nevertheless, by October, you should have a solid idea about where your child stands.  Progress reports allow teachers to pinpoint any difficulties that your child might be experiencing and connect with you to discuss them.

     If your child often tells you, “nothing happened at school” or “we didn’t learn anything”, it can be difficult to know how things are really going.  Interims are a great resource for parents who aren’t getting much information from their children. Teachers often spend even more time with your children than you do, so having open communication between you will often make for a much more successful student. Read the instructor’s notes carefully and keep them in mind to re-address during the next meeting.

     Parents should also look at what rubric their child’s interim grades are based upon. Grading systems vary all over the country and a poor grade doesn’t always mean that your child doesn’t grasp the material. Does your child have a D in a class based off of three grades, or off of thirty? If one bombed test is affecting his or her grade significantly, that is less worrisome than an entire test category showing up in the red. If/when a concern arises, work with your child and his or her teacher to create a plan that addresses the issue.  There is still time for students to bring up their interim grades, but before you know it, the holidays will be here, and report cards will be arriving.

     As educators, we strongly encourage parents to take advantage of parent-teacher conferences after interims have been distributed.  We understand how overwhelming schedules are, but a short meeting with your child’s teacher could greatly benefit him. If you cannot be present for the assigned day, reach out to the teacher and work out another option (whether it's after school or before school, or even via phone). These are a huge opportunity to get a window into your child's classroom and an idea of how they’re doing outside of the home. You may be looking at a simple fix to bring some of those grades up!

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