The Accompaniment Approach

For about 10 years, I used to be a math and physics tutor. It started when I was in college helping in a tutoring program for undergraduates, and after I got to grad school, I began to tutor privately at the homes of high school kids. When I put together a resume, or if I look for tutoring these days, I say that I use an “accompaniment approach”.

What is an accompaniment approach?

It means that I don’t come up with specific lessons and exercises, and I don’t give any new assignments outside of their own classroom obligations. I don’t have a whole evaulation program – in fact, I don’t bring anything with me to the tutoring except a pencil.

So, what do I do?

After our initial settling down, I let the student take out their current homework assignment and start it on their own. And I just watch – it’s as if I’m not even there. And as I watch, I observe their train of thought as they go along. If they go along with no problem, I say nothing but a “good!” at the end. But if they stop or struggle or go down the wrong path, I feel it out and let them wrestle with it. If it seems the stress is getting high, I’ll slide in a subtle hint and let them churn on it a bit. If that doesn’t help I’ll give a bigger one. I might direct their attention to a wrong turning point and ask them to clarify why they went the way they did. They will wrestle with their work, and usually the light eventually goes on, but even if it doesn’t, I make sure there’s a way out to the solution. I will never let the stress get to be more than would be good for them.

Do you know I was 100% successful with students improving their confidence, understanding, and grades – and their parents’ emotional state!

That, friends, is the accompaniment approach.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes about how God is with us:

No trial has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tried beyond your strength, but with the trial will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor 10:13)

OK, so God gives us the trials, which we don’t want. But what’s this about giving us no more than we can endure? What’s up with this ‘way of escape’? Anyone who’s been in a really stressful, tough life situation can relate to those questions. No, it’s not just grin and bear it and keep on praying and patiently doing your best because God’s not going to send you more than you can bear. Nor is it asking to change reality. No, God gives us life with all its mysterious ups and downs, of all the different varieties. So what does all this mean?

Well, when Jesus is about to go and pray in the Garden and undergo his own trial, he tells the disciples, “I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth.” (Jn 14:16)

Yes, God gives the trials.

But He also sends a Tutor.

And the Tutor uses the accompaniment approach.

To have the Holy Spirit with us forever means that as life unfolds and we are called into it, He’s not going to give us new exercises to do, or side work to do. He’s just going to accompany us. We may not sense His presence, but He’s there. As we go along, we may hear some kudos when things are going well. When we’re lost and struggling, we’ll get promptings. And more promptings. We will struggle with our life, and usually the light will eventually go on for us to find our way through the trials. But even if it doesn’t, the Spirit will make sure there’s a way out to the solution. He will never let us struggle and suffer more than would be good for us.

And He’s got a 100% success rate.

If you want life’s trials to bring about an increase in your confidence and growth, and you want to always pass through them successfully, don’t let the gift of the Holy Spirit pass you by. Don’t go life alone.

Be open to the Tutor that God wants to give, and His method:

The accompaniment approach.


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