The 7 Most Important Things a Tutor Can Do for a Student

The 7 Most Important Things a Tutor Can Do for a Student

We could write a book about the various knowledge and skills tutors need to be effective teachers for their students. But if we had to boil everything down to just the most important and impactful things tutors should do for their students, our list would go like this…

1. Listen to your students


Sometimes tutors measure which areas a student needs help in by looking at work they’ve done instead of paying attention to what the student has to say. It is critical to ask students questions, then attentively listen to their responses to determine if they have underlying misunderstandings or misconceptions about the material.

Quite possibly, a student’s struggles with certain subject matter may stem from a single core concept problem. By letting the student explain the topic in their own words, tutors can diagnose the issue and perhaps offer a new perspective that leads to a breakthrough!

2. Assess and adjust your strategy


Going hand-in-hand with the above, tutors need to consistently assess where the student is with the material, in conjunction with where they “should” be, based on predefined goals and timelines.

If a student isn’t making sufficient progress, it’s time to alter tutoring tactics. Tutors must be flexible and willing to adjust teaching strategies according to individual learners’ needs.

3. Be creative and flexible with learning styles


Every student has a unique learning style and a unique personality.

To be effective, savvy tutors determine the best way to reach each student via their learning style (more visual, more verbal, more written down, etc.). Tutors can next make inroads by finding things that interest their students most, then structuring lessons and activities accordingly.

4. Build relationships


To properly tailor lessons and teaching styles, tutors have to get to know their pupils better!

Students crave authentic relationships with their tutors. In turn, that rapport builds trust and enables better communication flow. These things facilitate learning in ways most students never experience in a standard school classroom.

It’s beneficial to have a strong relationship with parents, too. This allows for more honest and open talks regarding the students’ needs and projected outcomes. And, from a business perspective, it is vital to manage client expectations.

5. Be patient at all times


Students are often a bit shy about needing a tutor. They may enter into lessons with a fragile mental state, being hyper-aware of all verbal and nonverbal feedback.

Tutors, therefore, must exercise extreme patience and not cave into their own frustrations. When the student senses impatience from their tutor, at best, it can demotivate them or cause them to withdraw in embarrassment. At worst, it can cause a detrimental blow to the student’s self-esteem, making them feel like they are not “smart enough” to understand the subject matter.

6. Teach students how to problem-solve


It’s impossible to solve a problem if the problem isn’t clearly defined and understood in the first place.

Tutors should empower students with critical thinking skills to understand how to assess and clearly define problems. When necessary, they must also demonstrate how to break big problems down into smaller components.

Only after problems are outlined and understood should tutors help students attempt to figure out solutions.

7. Foster independence


In a way, tutors essentially should be striving to make themselves unnecessary for their students!

After all, a tutor’s ultimate job is to build student knowledge, skills, and confidence levels high enough that they become self-reliant. As the old adage goes, “Give a person a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime!”

5 Tips for Optimizing Tutoring

5 Tips for Optimizing Tutoring

How to become the best instructor is not as simple as understanding the content that you are teaching, in fact knowing what you are teaching is only the foundation. Don’t get me wrong, if you don’t know what you’re teaching, you’re never going to be able to figure out how you have to teach it, but there are also less obvious variables that need to be considered as well. 

1. Know who you are teaching – If you don’t know who you are teaching to, you minimize your chances of being an effective instructor. Even if it’s just one student, you need to understand what their learning needs are – I’m not just talking about what they need to learn. Learning for each student goes much deeper than this. Sure there may be some obvious learning challenges to address in some cases, like dyslexia, dysgraphia, physical challenges, etc., but when it comes down to it, understanding where a student is in their current level of understanding, what life experiences they’ve had inside and outside of the classroom, and what makes them want to learn, is the key to breaking down walls and building up learners.

2. Understand your strengths and weaknesses – As hard as we may try, none of us are perfect, so being able to reflect on who you are right now as an instructor and who you want to be, is super important. Just like some of the behaviors and thinking that we develop from our families, very often we have teaching styles that mimic or are in response to the learning experiences we had as learners in the classroom. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however we can never get caught up in thinking that the way things were taught in the past, have to be the same way kids should be taught now and in the future. The only way we can really grow as instructors is by practicing self-reflection and taking responsibility embracing our successes, but also finding solutions in the cases where students aren’t engaging or understanding what we are trying to help them learn.

3. Being prepared for everything – You didn’t just jump in a car one day and roll onto the expressway (hopefully!), so jumping into a session with a student or group of students shouldn’t be any different. Practice! Practice! Practice! You practice driving so that in most situations you will be able to handle whatever comes your way – the same holds true for being an effective instructor. The more prepared you are the better your chances are for helping your students reach their goals and maximize their potential. Structure is important – students should have a clear understanding of what the learning goals are and the path that you will take together to get there, however, over-structured or over regimented learning sessions can be just as bad as chaotic ones. It is important that you leave some wiggle room for what might happen and/or a pivot that might be an essential part of helping students master their understanding. If you are prepared, you’ll have the flexibility to adapt to go “off-roading” whenever you hit a “roadblock.”

4. Never make assumptions – When you go into a session with your mind made up about what a student can accomplish in a day or a lifetime, you are setting them up for failure. Everyone learns differently and at a different pace. As instructors it is not our place to set limits, it is our place to set goals that help each student grow and maximize their potential. It’s natural to compare and contrast students – we want to have some type of metric to use to gauge where a student is at in their evolution of understandings and skillsets, however when we use these comparisons to judge or put limits on students, we create unnecessary barriers for them instead of ladders to help them get over the barriers that they have no control over. Not every student will build rockets or go to the moon, but who are we to tell them that they shouldn’t reach for the stars.

5. Teach them how to fail – I’m not saying that you should go out and tell students to get F’s on their report card – we’d all be out of a job if that was the case, but what I am saying is that learning from failure and to critically think about things and to ask questions is essential. We know that nowadays you can jump online and find out facts about anything and everything and that it’s pretty easy to regurgitate text from a book, but what students struggle with the most in our very competitive culture, is understanding that failure is just as important, if not more important than success. Teaching students to not get discouraged or stuck when things just didn’t turn out how they expected and to reflect on what caused the failure, is probably one of the best and most universal skills that you can teach them. Some of the greatest discoveries have come about via iteration – there is a lot to be learned from it. Reminding students of this, walking them through the process of reflection, and helping them move forward, rather than judging them on their failures will help you build trust and to connect with your students.

There are lots of logistics that we can address when talking about optimizing instruction for tutors, like understanding all of the technical components, establishing schedules, reviewing behavioral expectations, explaining communication protocols, etc., that are keys to successfully teaching students, but sometimes we need to examine the intangibles (listed above) to take learning from a good experience to a great one!