What To Look For In A Tutor

So you, or your child, or your child's teacher, have decided that extra help outside the classroom is in order. How then do you go about assessing the many options for tutoring in NYC: peer tutoring, resources at the school, referrals from fellow parents, individuals who specialize in a given subject, tutoring companies that send out a variety of tutors with different skill sets. Any of these options can result in a positive tutoring experience but if you know what you are looking for, the odds of success will be greatly increased.

Here are the things that we, at Partners with Parents, look for in tutors:

  • Knowledge of the Subject - Obvious? Well, yes. You should certainly make sure that your tutor is knowledgeable in the subject he or she is about to teach your child. Beware, however, that credentials alone do not tell the whole story. I had a Nobel Prize winning chemistry professor in college who couldn't convey the basic concepts in Chemistry 101. He was one of the worst teachers I have ever had.

  • Experience with students in similar situations - The ideal would be a tutor who has successfuly worked with students in the same class at the same school with the same teacher. In general, you can feel encouraged if they have been effective with other students of the same age, in the same subject.

  • Ability to build rapport - This is where the tutor's personality comes in. Will your child respond well to the tutor? This should not be confused with: Will your child like the tutor? Some children respond to humor, others to knowledge of basketball or music, and others to a firm hand and clear boundaries. Before hiring a tutor, consider the qualities that he or she should possess in order to create an effective partnership with your child.

  • Versatility/Flexibility - A tutor must be able to teach a concept in many different ways. The beauty of the one-on-one tutoring situation is that lessons can be tailored to an individual student?s learning style; if a given concept is not getting through, the tutor should be able to change the lesson plan midstream to tap into the way that the student learns best.

  • Ability to motivate - You or your child may know what it takes to motivate him or her. Enthusiasm for the subject matter? Rewards? Consequences for poor performance? Different tutors have different strengths in this arena, whether it means creating a strong mentoring bond, developing techniques to keep your child on task, or simply facilitating your child's independent drive.

  • Values your time as well as their own - You want a tutor who is generous with their time but not overly so. If you are paying for an hour of tutoring you should expect your tutor to be ready to work at the start of the hour. You should not expect them to stay beyond the allotted time, since if they are good at what they do, they are likely to have another session following yours. (But they should certainly be willing to schedule a time to update you and discuss any concerns you might have.

  • Good communication - Are they easily reachable? Do they respond to e-mails/phone calls promptly? When responding, are they thorough? Do you sense that they will speak candidly about your child's progress rather than telling you what you want to hear?

In the end, tutors' experiences, personalities and teaching techniques are wide and varied. The key is to determine the qualities that will most benefit your child. Make a hypothesis about what those qualities are and ask your children for their input. Try a tutor who seems to fit your criteria and have a few sessions. If it doesn't feel like a good fit, don?t be afraid to try someone else. You may find fabulous tutors that aren't quite right for your child. It may take a little trial and error but you'll know when you've found the right one.

[Naturally, Partners With Parents has a horse in this race. Over the last 12 years we think we have gotten pretty good at understanding each family's unique set of circumstances and proposing the right tutor.]  

Tags: Academic Coaching, Student Survival, Subject-Based Tutoring, Test Preparation, Tutoring
Related Articles: Tutoring Tips
5 Things You Can Do . . . To Stay Academically Fit
Starting the School Year Off Right
What Are Your Ideal Study Conditions?
Day One: The First Tutoring Session

Join Our Newsletter:


Do we have the right fit for your family?


Join Our Newsletter