Friday, June 6, 2014

First time tutoring

Today a young (ish) colleague asked me if I had ever done any tutoring. I have, but that's another story. She wants to offer private lessons for extra cash and asked for some pointers. Her first challenge? She was totally unsure about what tutoring is. In other words, she has no idea.

The first and probably most important question is "why?". What is the purpose of the tutoring? A refinement of this: who is asking for the tutoring, the parent or the child?

Homework Support - does the student need help with homework (or classwork)? This kind of tutoring is like being a teacher-aide and knowing what is happening in the classroom and what is expected is vital. Regular contact, and a good relationship, with the teacher is important. This type of tutoring is long-term and driven by the student - or what is in his/her backpack or homework diary. This type of tutoring is often parent-driven and student resistance can be strong and appear in many guises. Keep in mind that often the reason for the support is not scholastic. It may be emotional, related to bullying, a protest against parenting, and so this type of tutoring can actually involved much listening and counseling. Once the underlying cause is found, the problem can often be resolved and the tutor is a hero!

Remediation - the student is weak at something or does not grasp it and needs to go over it again or to have it re-presented in a different way. It is similar to Homework Support. However, it usually has a sunset. Once s/he gets it, the tutoring is over.

Catch-up - the student has transferred into a course and missed what went before or was ill and missed a number of classes. Again, knowing what is happening in the classroom and what is expected is vital and this type of tutoring too has a sunset.

Extension - the capable student who wants to go further than his/her classmates or program, or wants to study something his/her school does not offer. This is usually student-driven and often the most enjoyable as the student is motivated to do well. However, if his/her expectations are unrealistic, the tutor must provide sympathetic and appropriate "counseling out" before any disappointment.

Test-prep - clear expectations and a clear timeline. Typically, this is little more than going over practise papers (repeatedly) so a deep understanding of how the assessment operates is essential, preferably from having taught it although having gone through it can be helpful. However, often this is parent-driven with resultant student resistance. Counseling can be required.

Bragging rights - possibly the worst reason for tutoring. This is especially common with music and foreign languages. Either the parent wants to boast that his/her child is so strong that the school cannot provide for him/her and thus a private teacher is needed, or the neighbors have a tutor so this parent must have one too.

And then - once you know what prompted the tutoring request, you can then consider what to cover, how to cover it and when to do so. That discussion is for another day so please check back.

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