I have been tutoring for over a year now. However, this does not mean that I haven’t made my fair share of mistakes in sessions. I’ve learned gradually over time from my foibles, but you don’t have to! Here is a countdown of 10 mistakes I made when tutoring face-to-face! (and how YOU can avoid them.)
10: Bring a Pen
This one sounds silly, but it is vital to the quality of your tutoring. You might have prepared an amazing lesson plan via a digital platform such as Powerpoint or Word. However, what a pen enables you to amend mistakes and to work with the child within the moment, bringing them to an understanding that is more suited to them.
I have been left without a pen before, and you can find it extremely difficult to really teach the student in a personal way. And you may have to suffer the embarrassment of asking the student or the parents to borrow a pen!
9: Allow for a break
Teaching a child in the comfort of their own home can be an advantage, but can also serve as quite draining for the child, as they associate the space with play and relaxation. This is why you will sometimes have to allow for a short break. This will let the student relax for a bit and take the edge off of the exercises that you are doing together, it will also give you time to assess the students progress and chart a course for the rest of the lesson. Not allowing for a break can lead to a loss of focus, and by the end of the session, the child might not be focusing on what you have to say at all.
8: Be patient
Again, home tutoring is a strange thing. It can be helpful to the student, but only if they are able to proceed at their own pace. Just like in a classroom, the student will sometimes fail to provide you with the right answer, or misinterpret your direction. It is because of the one-on-one nature of this teaching that you notice more than you would in a classroom.
Be patient with the student, try and be constructive in your critique. Reward them for a having a go and then delve into why they were not completely correct in their thinking. You would rather have a student solve one problem or do one exercise correctly, than have them misinterpret a whole hour’s worth of material.
7: Have fun, don’t make it all hard work
School is extremely challenging for students, they are forced to be attentive, punctual and polite for around 7 hours of their day! The last thing they want to do is to come home and then be treated exactly how they were in school. This doesn’t mean that they need to be, in any way, less polite or focused than in school, but allow your exercises to be a bit more fun and maybe a bit less taxing.
A good tip is treating your session like a check-in. Make yourself aware of what the student has studied in school, then supply them with a question where they have to implement and convey their understanding and see if they can do it. It doesn’t have to be a session where they learn something new, it can be a session where they redo something from class, and learn how that skill can be fun and exciting.
6: Take time to assimilate into a working environment
So many times I’ve come into my tutoring session and tried to get straight on with work, and the child has obviously not been ready. Both you and the student need time to relax into the environment of tutoring. I often ask my younger students how school is going, what they have been up to on the weekend or over the holidays. This gives them a chance to talk socially with an authoritative figure which lets them know that they are not being judged or told off like they often might be in school. It also gives them a chance to divulge to you any anecdotes of bullying or other such issues, which might in turn be really beneficial to them.
5: Make sure to over-prepare
Reaching that point where the lesson is not just over and having nothing left to do is a really painful experience! In a classroom you might be able to end the lesson with a quiz or something similar. But doing that in a tutoring session can seem off-key and if you start to get really lost for something to do the student can sense it and will switch off!
It is always better to prepare more than you need to, as that way you can switch and swap exercises as you see fit. This also means you can keep the student on their toes.
4: Don’t tutor on an empty stomach
Another one that sounds silly, but is vital!
A lot of my tutoring sessions are early in the morning, and sometimes I haven’t allowed myself to grab something to eat before I walk out the door. Unfortunately, upon getting to the session, I am already hungry and therefore am distracted and agitated.
This doesn’t just mean keep yourself fed. Make sure that there is nothing that could distract you from the current session. Don’t leave your oven on, make sure your pets are fed and eat something good beforehand so you can use all that energy on the student!
3: Make sure you are in a neutral room that enables focus
A lot of times I have had to tutor in a living room of a house on a makeshift table and chairs, but this room was full of distractions which can include phones, food and noisy siblings!
When you begin working with a new student, take the time to find a location in the house that suits both of you. One that has little on the walls or within arms reach so they are not able to shift their focus without you noticing. That way their mind can be completely tied in to the lesson you have planned.
2: Stick to the allotted times
There might be something else you really want to cover but you are running out of time, or something you really want to catch on TV so you call the lesson short 10 minutes. Both are as bad as each other! Because you are teaching a student in a relaxed environment, the student needs routine and tradition to be able to apply themselves fully to the lesson.
1: Don’t let parents distract you!
There has been so many times where a parent of a child has sat down in the tutoring space and started speaking to me about a whole host of things! Moving house, food, Scotland! It’s good to establish a friendship with the parents of the student, but remember, this time is for the student! Not the parent! So after a brief chat with the parent, make sure you shift the focus back on to the student, so they know this time is for their benefit and no one elses.
So they you have it, give this list a read-through and make sure you’re not making any of these mistakes when you are teaching a student.
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