Feb 09, 2017
Put aside those new-tutor jitters — Clark has you covered with some time-tested strategies from real-life tutors.
New tutors are often so focused on completing lesson plans, managing time and achieving session goals that they forget the core concept: a student is a real person, too. Working to achieve academic goals is undoubtedly important, but you should never lose sight of the human element. Students won’t benefit from your help unless they’re comfortable enough to learn from you, so focus on how your student feels. Start by asking about their day. Develop a connection. They’re likely just as nervous and excited as you are, and they’re looking forward to your help! Empathy is the most important characteristic for a tutor to possess.
Remember: if you mismanage your time and don’t finish your lesson plan, you’ll be fine. When you start out tutoring, mistakes are okay and allow you to determine what needs correction and adjustment as you progress. On the other hand, a poor relationship with your clients can lead to bigger problems and can even end up losing some business. Remind yourself to calm your nerves and breathe before your first session to make ensure you’re not projecting stress onto your student.
Now that you’re able to breathe and maintain a regular heartbeat (whew), the next most important thing is your lesson plan. To plan a well-thought-out tutoring session, you’ll want to start with your end goal in mind and work your way backward.
So, how do you do this? For starters, think about the one thing you want your student to have a firm grasp of by the end of the tutoring session. When working with science student, for example, perhaps you’ll want them to understand the steps of the scientific method. If you’re tutoring a student in ESL, maybe your goal is for the student to comprehend present perfect tense in a sentence. Once you identify your goal, you can develop the steps to your lesson by asking yourself what you can do to get your student there.
There is a second component of this tip to account for. That is, once your tutoring session has started, never take your eyes off the prize. Time management is a critical skill for a tutor, and cutting out steps of a lesson plan to end on time is very common due to mismanagement. Be careful not to waste all of your time talking at your student instead of with them. Instead, engage them in practice drills and problems as quickly as you can, and remember that you should think of the session as a collaboration to keep attention levels high.
New tutors often feel the need to come up with something new for every activity. At best, this is unnecessary. At worst, this is distracting from your session.
As far as managing behavior and setting up expectations, consistency is key. If you condemn a certain behavior once and let it slide the next time, your student may no longer understand what it is you want from them.
Even in your tutoring session, there are many advantages to being consistent with your tutoring style rather than coming up with novel concepts every time. Being consistent means less time wasted explaining the rules to a new game. It also means that students can focus on your lesson and the content rather than figuring out how to do a new activity or set of drills.
Sure, it’s good to freshen it up from time to time. But, in general, find what works for you and then hone it into a rock solid lesson.
Now go forth and tutor with pride!
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