There are superior tutors and superior tutoring methods
This is the first article of many that I will be writing about how to be a good tutor. This series of articles will be about the qualities you must possess in order to be a highly-effective tutor and how you can improve your tutoring skills. They are based on thousands of hours of one-on-one and small group tutoring sessions. I have tutored material in biology, chemistry, math and physics at all levels from elementary to AP High School to lower and upper division college courses, and have even tutored students for the SAT and AP subject exams and the MCAT. Basically, anything to do with math or science I have tutored one-on-one or in small group sessions. Through these tutoring sessions I have acquired an incredible depth of knowledge about how different people learn and process information and have discovered how to most effectively help students understand complicated material very quickly. I have consistently pushed myself to explain things faster, tested through trial and error the pace and timing of how I introduce new material, have digested volumes of scientific and education literature on how the brain processes and stores information and have fine-tuned my methods to compliment the biological processes the brain uses to solidify memories and enhance critical thinking.
I hope these articles will help private tutors and coaches help their clients achieve exceptional results, will help learning centers develop better training protocols to ensure their tutors and instructors are well-prepared, will help every-day classroom teachers assess and address students’ needs in one-on-one meetings before, during, and after school, and even provide tips to parents on how to help their kids with homework (OMG Mom, leave me alone!!!).
I believe someone must have extensive experience working with many different kinds of students one-on-one before they can really understand what different students need to first become proficient and then excel in academics. An exceptional tutor can provide a student with an enormous boost in both their understanding of the material and the confidence that goes along with mastering a subject. This boost in confidence often carries over to other subjects, improving grades not just in the subject being tutored but all other classes the student is taking, and can significantly reduce the stress associated with not being able to grasp a subject.
An exceptional tutor should be able to teach material to a student several times faster than an average tutor and several times faster than a classroom teacher because they have the distinct advantage of working with the student in a one-on-one setting. If a tutor cannot teach a student faster in a one-on-one session than a teacher or professor can teach a classroom full of students there is clearly something wrong. It would be like giving LeBron James a four-letter lead in a game of H-O-R-S-E and then him losing! If you don’t know who LeBron James is, don’t worry, it probably means you’re the biggest nerd ever and you’ve been too busy studying for your Nobel P-R-I-Z-E! I will show you how to maximize your one-on-one advantage.
Throughout my years tutoring I have talked to dozens of parents who say “We’ve tried three or four tutors already but none of them seem to help and we’re starting to think our son just won’t ever be able to understand this subject”. Then I step in, or have one of my well-trained tutors step in, and just watch the confidence build and the student’s grades improve. The difference between an average tutor with little training or experience and well-trained tutor can be huge.
I think of the quality of tutors as being similar to the quality of wines – you generally get what you pay for. A $50 bottle of wine will almost always be better than a $2 bottle. However, every once in a while you may find a rare exception, but as soon as the great value vintage is discovered, I guarantee its price will rise the following season. And just like some bottles of wine are overpriced, or may only be marginally better than a much less expensive bottle, some tutors charge exorbitant rates and may not be worth the value. However, if an exceptional tutor can help a student understand 4 times more material in a session than a normal tutor and they only charge twice as much, that seems like a good return on investment to me.
However, some people shopping for a tutor don’t use “return-on-investment” when deciding who to work with, they merely consider price and assume that all tutors are created equal, which they are not! So to students and parents who are shopping for tutors: paying a good tutor $60/hr is better than paying a bad tutor $30/hr if the good tutor can help you understand twice as much material in the same amount of time. Instead of meeting 2-3 times a week with the bad tutor you can meet once with the good tutor and save yourself a whole lot of time and money. Not to mention that you will be able to to pick up more tips from the good tutor about their thought process and how they solve problems more quickly. I have had a lot of parents say “Our tutor is really nice and we like her/him, but they just don’t seem to be helping.” This means you need to keep shopping around because a good tutor will always help a student perform better.
If you are a private tutor reading these articles my goal is to increase your brand’s value and give your clients a better return-on-investment. The same goes for learning centers – I have seen a lot of learning centers who don’t properly train their instructors and just throw them into a cubicle with one or more students, and don’t inspire confidence or get results for their students. When I worked for one of the largest test-prep companies I only received minimal training for teaching the MCAT, and no training whatsoever for tutoring students one-on-one. Hopefully their training protocols have become more extensive. There are superior tutoring methods and those who practice them become superior tutors.
Tutoring and test prep is a rapidly-growing industry and the demand will only continue to grow. If you are one of the top tutors in your area, you can easily make a good living by helping others excel. I have had a great time building relationships with students and families, helping them reach their academic goals, and even inspiring them to pursue studies in the fields I tutored them in. Tutoring can be one of the most rewarding professions because you can see immediate results and notice changes in students’ confidence, success, and happiness. This makes you feel better about yourself, too!
Right now you may be just another tutoring grape on the vine, but by the time I am finished with you you’ll be the most matured vintage out there and will be sought after by even the most refined palates!