Finding the right tutor is no simple task.
There are a multitude of factors that form an effective learning relationship between a tutor and a student, and locating that one person who understands the needs of your child, has the patience to find an approach that works and who you as the parent feel comfortable with should not be underestimated.
I have been running an online community of tutors for almost 18 months now (the Qualified Tutor Community). What I’ve learnt through my thousands of conversations and interactions with the 1400+ tutors within is that there is no one type of ‘perfect’ tutor.
We’re eminently aware that every child is different. And it’s the same for tutors. That’s what makes tutoring such a rich and diverse profession.
Below, I will lay out some of the key attributes that I believe a tutor should possess, and so what a parent should also be looking for.
Patience is the key to understanding. It is easy as a tutor to get ahead of yourself, to expect that every session will follow the lovely, colourful session plan that you’ve laid out. But this is not how it works.
We have to stay present, to stay in the moment. And this means recognising the very real needs of our students, every single session. There will be times when they come in tired, or bored, or under-stimulated. And we have to be ready for that, and we have to be able to respond to that as best we can.
Patience is an easy virtue to laud and to prescribe. But, as any experienced tutor will know, it is much harder to display in the heat of the moment. I urge you, put yourself in their shoes and take a moment to remind yourself that their inability or lack of motivation in answering your question or completing your task is not a reflection on you (or at least it shouldn’t be!)
It is one of the core values of our training courses here at Qualified Tutor, and it is one of the first concepts we introduce to our participants. This reflects the importance of patience and the importance that it is implemented from the very first session.
If you think back to your favourite teacher, the chances are they will be or will have been someone who left you feeling happy and positive, about yourself, about your day and about your learning.
Be this teacher.
Children are incredibly perceptive and will be able to spot even the smallest changes in mood and behaviour. A good tutor will bring this positivity come rain or shine. And by this, I mean more than just ‘whenever you’re feeling energetic and even when you’re feeling tired’.
I mean when a student gets an answer right, and when they get it wrong. Countless articles and experts will tell you that we learn more when we make a mistake, then we get it right first time. So why aren’t we more positive about getting it wrong.
Positivity means supporting your student especially when they get it wrong, so that they enter a comfortable learning space where they are happy to make mistakes and not feel like there will be disappointment, or worse, punishment. Students need to feel that trust in order to take the leap into the unknown, and continually increasing their confidence through positivity and support will go a long way to building trust.
3. Subject knowledge
You cannot write an article about what parents should look for in a tutor without including subject knowledge. But I didn’t want to put this first because so many tutors will start with understanding their knowledge, possibly many years before they even consider becoming a tutor. Subject knowledge starts with being good at that subject when you are a student yourself; by the time many tutors come to actually be tutors, they have known the content for a number of years already (which is incidentally why encouraging children to teach one another (ie. be a tutor) will make them better learners!)
This is one of the biggest flaws I see in tutoring today, is tutors taking on work that they are not able to do, simply because someone has asked them nicely or because they need the work (read: ££).
I did it myself back in the early days of my tutoring.
As a parent, ensure that you have been able to ask your tutor, before hiring them, a little bit about the subject(s) you are asking them to help your child with. It’s not rude and it doesn’t have to feel like a formal interview. But ask them about curriculum, ask them about modules or areas they would be looking to cover and get a feel for how well they know their subject.
Remember that the likelihood is that they will know about their subject so no need to transform into a senior FBI agent or master interrogator. But a few questions exploring what they would like to cover and what they know about the subject, and level, if your child won’t go amiss … and should show up any tutor who’s looking for quick cash!
This is an interesting one. I am not saying that you need to have training to be a great tutor. But consider this: would you make an appointment with a GP who hadn’t gone through medical school? Would you work with a lawyer who had never attended law school? Would you hire a plumber who had never received formal training?
It’s taking the education industry a while to adjust, but tutoring is no different to the above professions, save for the fact that it’s considered a ‘newer’ or ‘younger’ profession (though, as we know, personal tutors have existed since at least Ancient Greece and most probably, much before that).
A tutor who has received training and professional development support is a tutor who will feel more confident in what they’re doing. Ultimately, a tutor cannot adequately support your child if they do not have confidence in the job they are doing. That’s where professional development and a supportive community of like-minded tutors comes in.
To take it a step further (it is called Continuous Professional Development, after all!),
I have written this piece based on the experiences I have had as a tutor of 6 years and as someone who has trained tutors for almost 2 years now. I know that these qualities make a good tutor and, if you are a parent reading this, I urge you to search to find a tutor who exhibits these attributes (and more, ideally!)
To find out more about how we are changing the face of tutoring, by bringing in minimum standards to ensure students and parents feel safe in the knowledge they have picked a high-quality tutor, visit qualifiedtutor.org today.
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