What makes a great private tutor? The right qualifications are just the start.
If your child's school has suggested working with a private tutor, or if your family has come to the decision that a private tutor would be helpful for your child, your first question is probably, "How exactly do we find one?"
The good news is that as the tutoring industry continues to grow, so do your options. The past decade has seen a significant rise in the number of private instructors—each with their own area of expertise, teaching techniques and learning philosophies.
The tough part? With so many dedicated and available instructors, sifting through the many qualified candidates to choose the right one can be a challenge. As a parent, your priority is to identify someone who best suits your child's needs, learning style and personality.
Here are some key things to consider if you're on the hunt for a tutor.
Review their qualifications
Tutors come with a wide variety of degrees, certifications and credentials. While all should have a solid background in basic courses such as English, mathematics, history, science and world languages, the key is to find someone who specializes in the subjects you'd like your child to focus on.
While parents tend to value tutors with advanced specialization degrees, holding a degree or being an expert in an area does not necessarily indicate a good tutor. Equally important—if not more—is your potential candidate's teaching methodology and background.
Keep an eye out for candidates with education-related certifications, such as degrees in teaching or certificate programs in tutoring. Look for certification from respected certifying tutor training groups, such as the American Tutoring Association, the Association for Tutoring Professionals or the National Tutoring Association.
Look at their overall experience
Just because an instructor has a PhD in a specific subject doesn't mean they will be able to teach it in a way that a child will understand. It is only through years of experience in private teaching that they develop the ability to explain concepts without coming off as intimidating or confusing.
When choosing a tutor, you should seek out candidates who are not only knowledgeable in their field but who have experience with one-to-one teaching. You'll also want a tutor who has worked with students in your child's age group. If your child has a learning disability, it's recommended to hire someone with experience in working with students with that disability.
In some cases, a student's struggle with a certain subject stems from anxiety that's created by an unsupportive classroom environment or unapproachable teacher.
Connect your child with a private instructor they feel comfortable being around. An approachable tutor can reduce negative associations with school or a specific subject while rekindling an interest in learning. Your child's private education coach should be able to explain difficult material without being discouraging, motivating them to want to do their best.
Prioritize someone who is patient
Patience should be a trait every teacher possesses—since everyone learns differently and at their own pace. Understanding this allows for a better tutor/student relationship. If the student feels that their instructor is easily irritated, they'll hold back.
Find a tutor with passion
Just as children can pick up on a tutor's boredom or disinterest, genuine passion and enthusiasm for a topic can be contagious. An instructor who genuinely enjoys teaching knows how to present any topic in a way that boosts student engagement. Their passion for learning should shine through in the positive energy they bring to sessions and in their interactive and creative lessons.
Words and actions can lift students up or break them down, which is why a motivational, encouraging tutor makes all the difference. Tutors don't just help their students progress in a subject, they foster creativity, develop potential, and help children visualize and work toward their goals.
Look for a growth mindset
A good instructor is eager to instill a growth mindset in their students. Meaning, you want a tutor who helps students believe that their abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Tutors have the important responsibility to nurture the critical, curious, and courageous minds of their students, and a growth mindset creates a love of learning.
Even with the best tutor, your child will not be able to make the most of their sessions if lessons conflict with your family's schedule. Your student is unlikely to be in a state of mind that is conducive to learning immediately after a long day of school and soccer practice, or if they must wake up early in the morning to attend sessions before a regular, full school day. Nor will it facilitate progress if you constantly must cancel sessions due to scheduling issues.
To make life easier for you and your child, seek out a tutor who can visit your home or meet locally to avoid having to make a lengthy, round-trip drive for each session. Tutoring sessions can be held in your home with an adult present, or at a library or other mutually agreeable public location. If weekdays are jam-packed for you and your family, look for an instructor who can meet on weekends rather than add unnecessary stress to your week.
The right teacher can make a powerful, lasting impact—not only on a student's performance at school, but on their work-study habits, social and behavioral skills and ability to manage their learning. Finding the best tutor for your child's needs may take some digging and time, but it's worthwhile to find an important ally in your child's journey of lifelong learning.