You may be wondering how to tutor effectively. Tutoring jobs are commonly recommended to high school and college students who specialize in a subject, enjoy teaching others, and want to earn some extra money. It seems easy: you help students with their homework, and they (or their parents) pay you for your time. But it’s not as simple as you’d think.
Research shows that effective tutoring requires a great deal of effort. High-quality learning materials, up-to-date training, effective relationship-building strategies, and consideration of students’ cultural backgrounds are among the things tutors need to consider in order for their students to succeed. Complicating it further, tutoring is about more than just academics. Students may be struggling with concerns at home or social-emotional difficulties that cause them to miss lessons, be disengaged, or act out. Great tutors are actually more like mentors, guiding their students to success beyond homework and tests.
Becoming a successful tutor can seem overwhelming. But by learning how to tutor effectively, you can get make an impact by teaching kids valuable knowledge and skills that will last them a lifetime. Keep reading to learn more about the rewarding career of tutoring and how you can excel in it.
Step One: Get Ready
The first step in becoming a successful tutor is choosing a subject that you know really well and an age group you want to teach to. Tailoring your area of expertise to the age of the kids you want to tutor is very important.
For instance, even if you love physics and earned an A in AP Physics last year, teaching key concepts of physics to a seventh grader might require you to freshen up on the basics. So consider subjects you know very well with minimal review needed. Then, to narrow it down, consider which topics are taught in your local school district. Search online for your local school district’s curriculum or reach out to teachers and staff. You can even try to do some research to determine which subject areas most students near you struggle with. This will help you tailor the services you offer to meet the specific needs of future clients.
Then, think about the ages of students who typically seek out a tutor: elementary, middle school, high school, and college. Teaching each group has its advantages and challenges that should be taken into consideration. The material for elementary subjects may be simpler, but it could prove challenging to teach basic concepts in an engaging way. On the other hand, the subject matter college students are learning is more complex, but these students tend to be more motivated to learn. You should also consider the age groups you have experience with, both personally and professionally, and determine if that is the age of the students you’d like to tutor. Also, ask yourself if that age group would need help with the subjects you want to teach.
If this is your first teaching experience, you can access online training for tutors to provide you with the necessary tools for success. For example, you can read the free tutoring training modules available on Centenary University’s website, or you can join the National Tutoring Association to get access to discounted webinars and learn more about how to tutor effectively in a professional setting. For educators in Illinois or Texas, Educate. Radiate. Elevate. also offers tutoring training. E.R.E. takes a holistic approach to teaching, increasing students’ academic prowess and soft skills. We consequently train our tutors in how to teach metacognition, executive functions, and interpersonal skills, as well as in culturally-responsive and trauma-informed education strategies. The information and resources provided are helpful for a wide variety of student populations, thus providing you with valuable professional development.
Next, consider any materials that can improve your lessons and help your students improve their grades and scores. This may include software for science demonstrations, index cards to use for vocabulary, binders to keep all materials organized, or the like. Take into consideration the subject and age group you’ll teach to determine what materials would be most effective and get prepared. Furthermore, research shows that tutoring during or immediately after the school day is most effective. Create time in your schedule during this period to make you more appealing to new clients.
Step Two: Put Yourself Out There
Advertising yourself as someone who knows how to tutor effectively can be challenging but doable. First, consider whether you want to go it solo or join a tutoring organization. As a solo tutor, you can charge your own rates and work with your own curriculum, but you may not have the same access to materials, training, and new clients that you would if you worked for a company like E.R.E..
If you decide to tutor on your own, you may find new students by posting flyers at your local schools and libraries. If you decide to work with an agency, E.R.E., AmeriCorps, and Teach for America are great options. Keep in mind that you may need to gain experience as a volunteer before you can acquire paid employment at a school or tutoring center.
Step Three: Be More Than a Tutor
All students have their own needs and challenges. Remember that most students won’t seek tutoring if they’re doing well in school; rather, they may be struggling with behavioral or intellectual disabilities, issues at home, or an ineffective learning environment. Therefore, forming a bond with your student is critical to their success.
Before you begin your sessions, ask the student’s parents or teachers for more detailed information. Ask what content the student is struggling with, as well as questions to help you determine the student’s learning styles, strengths, interests, and goals. Then form lesson plans based on the unique needs of the student. For example, if a student struggles with fractions but enjoys reading, you can provide word problems involving fractions. Or if a student learns best visually, you could create colorful presentations or worksheets.
Building rapport with your student and their family is very important, as it creates a comfortable environment and circumstances for them to thrive. Talk with them before and after lessons, make jokes, and generally keep an open atmosphere for them to ask questions and share concerns. Learn about their interests so you can incorporate those into your lessons. Students who have supportive adults and childhood mentors in their academic lives are more likely to succeed in school and take on leadership roles. Creating a supportive environment can be critical to your students’ development.
Above all else, remember to be patient. Students struggling with trauma at home, for example, may be discontent or disengaged during lessons. Consider solutions that are proactive and appropriate for that child. For instance, if the student has trouble focusing, offer a fidget toy or include brain breaks. If a student complains about the lesson, ask what you can do to make it more enjoyable and try to implement their suggestions. For students who are triggered or “shut down” during lesson plans, help them identify their triggers and brainstorm ways to better manage their emotions. A student’s struggles may seem insurmountable; but with the right support, most students flourish.
Tutoring can be a great addition to your finances and resume, but it can also present challenges you may not be prepared for. Learn how to tutor effectively with online resources, volunteer experience, and an open mind. Don’t worry if it takes extra time, especially in the beginning; the more prepared you are to help your students with academic, emotional, and social needs, the more they will develop the skills they require to succeed.
You can help us provide high-quality tutoring services by supporting Educate. Radiate. Elevate. We are a non-profit organization dedicated to providing low-income students with experienced, trained tutors throughout the year. If you would like to support our organization, donate, sponsor a student, or become a tutor yourself!