How to Find a Tutor that Works for Your Child
Finding a tutor is pretty simple… to find the right tutor is a whole different ballgame. Your child’s academic performance isn’t the only thing at stake here, your child’s sense of self, their belief in their abilities, how they perceive their own level of intelligence – there is so much at risk when you hire the wrong tutor.
By the time you’re looking for a tutor, your child is already emotionally vulnerable
Does this sound familiar? Your child is fighting tooth and nail against tutoring. They’re passionately opposed to the whole idea. Your first assumption may be that your child is lazy, unmotivated, and frankly, just being difficult. Their report cards indicate they need help and they’re not willing to lift a finger to improve.
What may actually be going on, is that your child worries that they’re simply not smart enough. That their failing grades (or simply, subpar grades) are an indication that they have lower intelligence than their peers and that a tutor will simply confirm this. The tutor will make the struggle more real. They may feel that they’re beyond help and that you’re wasting your money, and their time.
How the wrong choice of tutor can make this so much worse
Considering the emotional impact a tutor can have on a child or teen, the industry is wildly under-regulated. Anyone can list their tutoring services on sites like Facebook or Gumtree. There is no minimum qualification, no accreditation of skills – it’s a job perceived as an easy way for university students to make a little money. A tutor with poor communication skills will struggle to explain the subject manner. A tutor without training may attempt to teach your child in a way that makes the subject matter more difficult to understand. This only stands to re-enforce your child’s “inner voice” telling them that they’re beyond help. This self-doubt can creep into other areas of your child’s life, and cause them to “reduce their expectations” in terms of university application and career. In short, the wrong tutor can do significant damage.
So, how do you find a tutor with the right skills?
The right tutor has a few core skills beyond “was good at this subject at school”.
- Understands that all children have a “default” preference for absorbing information. Some kids need visual cues to understand, some will struggle to sit still and take it all in. Understanding how your child learns is the first step in helping your child to learn.
- Understands the potential “emotional barriers”. If your child’s self-esteem is suffering because of poor grades, you must find a tutor that can identify those negative feelings and put strategies in place to overcome them. This may involve setting small goals and helping your child to achieve them. This will stop your child feeling overwhelmed and give them a path to understanding the curriculum.
- Knows what it’s like to be a teen. It may be tempting to find a tutor who is a retired teacher and engage them based on their decades of experience. For some kids, this works wonders. For others, it further demonstrates the gaps that have brought your child to this juncture. Teens especially, may struggle with social pressures, extra-curricular schedules, stress and feelings of hopelessness and depression. This is all part of being a teen. Find a tutor who understands the weight of teen life and can put strategies in place to “fit” rather than conflict.
- Find a tutor who is invested. The $30 an hour local Facebook find might seem like a bargain but for $30 you’re not getting much more than an hour of their time. They’re not invested in your child’s success. They’re not following up with teachers, reporting to you, developing strategies, investigating issues and generally taking a key role in your child’s support network. For $30 you get an hour of homework help.
- Find a tutor who has back up. If you are using a “sole operator” as your tutor, your child takes a backseat when they’ve got a lot on. University assessment weeks may co-incide with your child’s assessment weeks. When your child needs their tutor most, their tutor may be unavailable, or at best, unfocused. When your tutor is sick, your child is the one who suffers. Worst of all, when your tutor finds something else – your child is left without support. Find a tutor who has back up – a boss, someone to go to if they need advice on bringing out the best in your child.
- Find a tutor focused solely on your child. Group tutoring may be cheaper. It may be convenient and even act as a “babysitter” for younger kids – but group tutoring is just another classroom where a single supervisor is dividing their attentions amongst multiple kids. Isn’t this what triggered your child’s problems in the first place? There’s no substitute for one-on-one focus. While it might be cheaper to go for a “shop front” tutoring company, your child may need longer to catch up with their classmates. Long term, it may just work out more expensive.
Find a Tutor – The Check List
- Can you identify my child’s learning style and teach in that style?
- How will you overcome my child’s “attitude”?
- How active will you be in my child’s ongoing education?
- Can you develop a strategy that fits into my child’s hectic schedule?
- What happens if you get sick? Do you have a backup? Are they any good?
- Finally, do you know the curriculum? Did you do well in this subject in school?
What happens when you find the right tutor?
It’s not just about grades improving. Don’t mistake a simple improvement in grades as a successful tutoring service. While your child’s grades absolutely should improve, the more important benchmarks should be around your child’s attitude to school and to learning. You should see changes in your child’s motivation. You should expect your child’s self-esteem and confidence to improve. While it’s great to find a tutor to take your child from a C to an A in a semester – a great tutor will give your child to lifelong “A grade” benefits.
Contributor: Hayden McEvoy is a former world-class athlete who developed the “A Team” method of tutoring. Bringing together Olympic coaches, child psychologists and leading educators, Hayden’s model has been transforming grades, and attitudes, for over a decade. Learn more about the “A Team” approach to tutoring here.