How to Select the Right Tutor
There are many reasons to consider a tutor. With back to school season fast approaching, you may feel the need for your child to have an academic tune up. Some parents feel that tutors are only needed for kids that are really struggling. Tutors can be chosen to assist kids who struggle with a new concept, enhance skills, prepare for future subject matter, or aid students who are swamped with busy sports or after school activity schedule.Chuck Cohn of Varsity Tutors sent some tips to help identify if your child needs a tutor and also offers advice on selecting the right tutor for your child.
Families often rely on the schools, the teachers, and the academic counselors – both within their high school and hired privately – to help them select courses, clubs, sports, and summer activities that maximize their chances at admission into a competitive college. But even with the best help from the school professionals, students often encounter difficulties in classes, resulting in lower grades that can impact how they fare in the college admissions process.
One of the best options available to parents and students, even gifted students, is to enlist the support of a tutor, to fill in the gaps and assure that the student is prepared and educated to reach their maximum potential, instead of being trapped in mediocrity. Fortunately, tutors are more available and more affordable than ever before.
The students who can benefit the most from private tutoring to gain an academic edge typically fall into four categories:
Students who lack some essential academic foundation: Maybe they were sick or didn’t feel well, or had a poor teacher in a prior prep course, or changed schools, or simply didn’t pay attention. For whatever reason, they are missing some of the essential knowledge, skills, or understanding to achieve success with the subject matter in the class they are presently facing. A tutor can identify the gaps and help the student address their specific needs on an ongoing basis.
Gifted or talented students who want and need more: Teachers in large classrooms are forced to teach to the average student. Gifted students who learn faster than the average student often stagnate academically because they aren’t challenged. They lose interest and their minds can wander. A tutor can see where the students are on the spectrum and develop a personalized program to challenge them, encourage their academic development, and stimulating their interest and enthusiasm for learning.
Students doing test prep or applying to colleges: Test preparation and test-taking skills are quickly becoming critical to students achieving academic success. Even the best schools can fail to prepare students properly for the subject matter and with the thinking processes that must be addressed in college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT. Tutors can provide students with an arsenal of weapons to be used on standardized assessments. They are able to make sure the student is prepared to deal with both the range of content, and can analyze and identify the types of problems and the right analysis technique to fly through the test and get the right answers with plenty of time to spare. Great tutors are able to equip students with both a strong foundation in content knowledge and the ability to quickly break down a complicated question.
Selecting a Tutor
Identify Your Needs – Know What You Want
Carefully identify the subject or the topic of help needed. Does your student want help with reading and comprehension? Mathematical problem solving? SAT or ACT problems? Writing? Language? Be specific and establish firm and reachable goals and objectives based on the needs you perceive. Before committing to a tutor, be sure that you have a clear understanding of fees, the schedule of activities, and cancellation policies.
Assess the Tutor’s Communication Skills
Can your child and the tutor communicate effectively? Observe how they interact. Are difficult concepts discussed in an easy to understand manner? Does the tutor “connect” with your student? Does the tutor clearly explain his or her approach to tutoring? Good tutors should be able to clearly tell you and the student how the sessions will be organized and conducted so that your questions and concerns are identified and addressed to your satisfaction.
Assess the Tutor’s Technical Skills
Great tutors will have recently been knee-deep in the content you will be covering. It is much more important to make sure that the tutor’s knowledge is fresh and recent, than if someone received good grades in calculus during college, for example. A tutor who recently took calculus and is still actively doing mathematics will be much more valuable than another who received an “A” in their college course 10 years ago. Determine if the tutor will tailor the tutoring sessions to meet the child’s learning style. Ask: Have they worked with children the same age? Are they familiar with the textbooks and other materials your child is using in school? Carefully review the tutor’s profile and credentials. Inquire about the tutor’s academic background, grades received, and course rigor.
Assess Personality and Teaching Style
Is the tutor someone that your student will enjoy working with? Do they maintain the student’s interest and admiration? Are they willing to work within the students’ time constraints? Are their personalities and communication styles compatible? Monitor and assess the outcome and tone of the sessions to ensure that the learning environment remains effective, amicable, and fruitful.
Run a Background Check and Check Qualifications
Review the tutors’ credentials carefully. Verify experience, test scores and transcripts and references. If appropriate, run a criminal and sex offender background check. Ensure that the person has represented themselves truthfully.
Monitor and Assess Results
Improving academic achievement requires strategizing, hard works and patience. Good tutors will make the best use of time to learn the student’s strengths and weaknesses, how they learn, and what they respond to. Then they will quickly develop and deploy an individualized learning plan. Tutoring sessions may be conducted once a class, once a week, or on an as needed basis. Once the tutoring begins, request periodic reports from both the tutor and your child’s teacher. Ask your student, “how’s it going?” and pay close attention to what they say. They should express enthusiasm. You should also find a noticeable academic improvement within a few months.
Finding a great tutor will motivate your student and improve his or her grades and test scores – the results can be amazing!
For more information visit www.varsitytutors.com.
ABOUT CHUCK COHN
Chuck Cohn graduated from Washington University in St. Louis. He is the founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors. Started in 2007, by Chuck and two college friends, the tutoring service has grown into a nation-wide network of over 900 tutors. They offer tutoring in a wide variety of courses in Math, Science, English, Test Preparation, numerous Foreign Languages, and Social Studies. Varsity Tutors has headquarters in St. Louis, MO with offices in 14 cities in the United States and has helped thousands of families.