Some tips, tricks and hacks to become a better tutor!
Guest post by Michael Whiting
Tutoring is an enjoyable and fulfilling job. It is a self-governing job, providing the choice to implement your own style. Though the content of your lessons is generally limited to whatever exam board or syllabus is relevant, your teaching strategy is yours. Without the usual restrictions that apply to school teachers and with the ability to set the pace in an informal environment, every day feels fresh when you are a private tutor. Naturally, tutoring comes with its own challenges. The tutor’s ability to overcome these challenges is how we distinguish between the exceptional and the average. I believe that any tuition philosophy should comprise of three essential pillars. To achieve focus, motivate and instil the ability to tackle any difficulty. In London, tutoring is highly competitive. To truly get ahead as a tutor, you should become a master of your craft. Here are some game-raising tips I have picked up that all tutors should consider.
A big goal as a tutor should be to cultivate an honest and healthy rapport with your student. Be positive and honest. Explain to them that you have been hired for a particular reason and stress the gravity of your task. Remember, when possible, the use of humour can be beneficial. Humour is relaxing for both parties and adds positivity and fun to your lessons.
A great tutor lets the student talk. Giving the student the chance to decompress is essential to honestly understanding what difficulties they face. Then you can work to overcome any problems. Always remember to keep the tone very positive and use lots of praise, as a tutor, you are there to motivate your student. If you can master this, your ability as a tutor will grow, and people will want to employ you. Also, remember that you and your student are a team; make sure the student understands this.
Preparation before every session is essential. It is straightforward. Understand what you need before every lesson and you can maximise the value that you are providing to your client. Preparation will get you more work.
Your teaching content is a significant part of what needs preparing, but you should also understand that every student is different. Every student provides new challenges. When you anticipate this, you can prepare for the difficulties you will face. For instance, one of the biggest challenges with some students is that they have a surplus of energy during the hour of tuition. When you know you are working with a particularly rambunctious student, you can prepare a strategy to make them focus. A higher level of energy is not necessarily a negative, distracting force. A great tutor can channel high levels of energy away from being a distracting force into a positive and enthusiastic focus.
One method to tackle excess energy is to work standing up. A lovely thing about private tuition is that it is learning in a relaxed and informal environment. There will be times when you may need to sit at a desk with your student, but a lot of teaching and problem solving can be done on your feet. The simple act of engaging the student in some movement can be useful in overcoming any restlessness.
In a similar vein, some students may need something to occupy their hands in order to maintain a higher level of concentration. Many tutors will bring items such as stress balls or a colourful spring and give that to the student to hold during their lessons. The tutor can then engage their mind and tackle the content. You could also try aiming towards small targets. Such as 10 minutes focus, 10 minutes light discussion or fun.
Every strategy for engaging a student should include proactive problem-solving. Fundamentally it is about distinguishing that which your student enjoys from that which challenges them. When you learn what applies to each of your students, then you can utilise this and arrive preparped.
The structure can be the difference between an effective session of tutoring and a lousy, ineffective session. Decide whether to include fun sections, either at the end or at the beginning. For some students, the act of beginning a session with a bit of educational fun creates positive energy that can be channeled into tackling genuine difficulty for the rest of the session. However, many students benefit from the incentive that they get to have fun provided they complete the first section of difficulty. These tips apply to tuition at every level. To raise your game as a tutor, you need to explore the most effective way to get your student genuinely enthused and focused, which may not initially be clear but will become more evident with experience.
Patience is an essential skill. Never despair that your student may not be grasping something. Be innovative, if things are not going to plan. There are many different resources and techniques that you can employ to try and get your student to retain information and grasp concepts. You can make mind maps and other visual methods, or you can tackle problems backwards. You can even make up little games to try and get through problems. You should always cogitate on new methods if you find what you have tried doesn’t work. Every student is unique and every student has different needs, it is essential the tutor remains calm.
To become a great tutor requires trial and error. Combined with the experience of putting the hours in you will master the craft. The ability to provide exceptional tuition is a highly valued skill that will always be in demand. Improving your game will also be incredibly rewarding as your success is solely reliant on the success of your students.
Michael Whiting is in charge of operations for Thurston and Jones Private Tuition, a London based tutoring agency. He connects the best suited tutors to students across the city and internationally.