Aug 28, 2019
Educators in general are some of the most selfless people we know. They work hard to better others, and for that we think they all deserve our appreciation. Like in any profession, there are certain qualities that make tutors more successful, and if tutors are successful, that means their students are, too. Here are six standout characteristics that we think separates the good tutors from the truly great.
They’re in it for the right reasons
Most educators don’t get into the field because they’re chasing wealth, but it’s important to know what does motivate a tutor. Are they just trying to make some easy cash on the side? Are they looking at tutoring as a resume-builder? Those are totally valid reasons to pick up tutoring, but because students benefit so much from working with the same tutor over an extended period of time, the most impactful tutors are the ones who are focused on tutoring as their career—not as a stepping stone to something else. These are the tutors who are going to be dedicated to and motivated by student progress, and who will be invested in their success for the long haul.
Good tutors don’t take problems at face value. They know that sometimes academic struggles are symptoms, and look to really understand the root causes. Rather than just focusing on surface-level difficulties, they truly seek to understand a student’s needs, listening to what they say—and paying attention to what they don’t. If a student is suffering in a particular subject because they’re anxious about participating in class, for example, a tutor can go beyond subject-specific lessons and help that student build the skills and confidence they need to succeed long term. Active listening is a critical skill for impactful tutoring.
They take the initiative
Truly great tutors don’t rest on their laurels. Even if they’ve been tutoring for a long time, and even if they’ve had great success with students in the past, they are proactive about learning how to be better. That can mean taking action to get a particular student to the next level—reaching out to teachers or administrators of family members who might have insights that can help a student overcome a hurdle, for example—or seeking out personal and professional development opportunities to research, learn about, and try new teaching methods and tools.
They’re dedicated to their students
The data on tutoring is clear—student outcomes are directly tied to the quality and longevity of their personal relationship with a tutor. So much of learning is based on relationships, from communication styles to the understanding of a student’s background and their academic, social, and emotional growth that can only come with time. Great tutors are dedicated to their students and in it for the long haul. They commit to clients for more than just a season, and are deeply invested in the success of their students.
They tell the truth
Honesty is the best policy, in life and in tutoring. Educators can feel like they are expected to know everything, but acknowledging a gap in understanding is critical both for building trust and providing students with the support that they really need. It’s okay for tutors to go back to the drawing board and do some research if they don’t have expertise in a given area, or aren’t sure about the best way to approach a particular need. It’s even okay to refer a client to someone more qualified in a given area. Part of being committed to what’s best for students is recognizing limitations and being honest about what can and can’t be done by one person. Making really understanding—not just appearing to understand—the goal is a hallmark of a good tutor.
They educate the whole person
While a student may come to a tutor with a need in a specific subject, excellent tutors help them build and hone a much broader toolkit. Along with subject-specific lessons, good tutors help students develop other skills, as well. They work on things like time management, organization, and ways to prepare for class. This sets students up for success in more than just one class—it means they’re better able to take on the rigors of all their classes, and of life in general.
In short, what sets a great tutor apart is their commitment to being the best educator they can for their students—truly understanding their needs, equipping them for achievement across the board, sticking with them over time, and going the extra mile in terms of their own professional development. Ultimately, the measure of a tutor’s success is the success of their students, and these qualities help them rise above the rest.