Private tutoring is an excellent option for any professionals with the appropriate credentials. Academic qualifications are obviously a pre-requisite, but they are only a part of the story.
Holding a First Class Honours degree in your chosen subject specialism does not make you an excellent teacher or tutor. There are a whole host of other skills and qualities that are necessary to become an effective private tutor.
Many of these are similar to the skills that lead to success as a teacher in schools – both primary and secondary – but they are not all transferable. Private tutoring often requires coming at things from a different angle and using alternative approaches.
Having said that, what is the same in being a teacher and a tutor, is that only those professionals who reflect on their practice and always strive to improve, develop and update their skills will remain outstanding at what they do.
Here are some tips on how to become an effective private tutor.
- Curriculum knowledge
Subject knowledge (and a passion for it) should be a given, but effective private tutors need to have a comprehensive understanding of the curriculum and the relevant examination specifications.
Parents seek private tutors for their children for a wide variety of reasons. While it’s possible that they want a professional to support their child with basic literacy or numeracy skills or specialist needs, such as dyslexia, it’s far more likely that the services of a tutor are required to prepare for an examination. Whether that’s KS2 SATS, the 11+, GCSEs or A levels, whatever your specialism is you need to know the examinations inside-out.
Where there is more than one specification (from different exam boards), an effective private tutor needs to get to grips with the course that one of their tutees is studying.
- Experience of examining
Nothing gives a teacher a better knowledge of an examination specification than having experience of being an examiner for it. As a teacher or a tutor, you need to be able to say to students: ‘this is what the examiner will be looking for’. You will have more credence making this statement if you are an examiner yourself.
- Get to the root of the problem
To be an effective private tutor, you need to get a firm grasp of what the student’s ‘problem’ is. What is the barrier to learning? What is exactly that they struggle to understand? What are the hurdles they can’t jump over?
Getting to the root of the problem means that a far better placed to fix it.
- Be an excellent listener
Crucial to understanding what a student’s difficulties are is having superb listening skills. Listen carefully to what they have to say. Flexibility is the key so that you can tailor your sessions to meet the needs of a particular student.
- ‘One size fits all’ will not work
Teachers will understand fully that no two classes are ever the same – even if ‘on paper’ their academic data suggests they should be. Taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to class teaching and assuming that what worked with one class will automatically have the same impact with another is a recipe for disaster.
With private tutoring, this is even more so. It is your job to produce bespoke, personalised learning.
- Be engaging
Although the reason you are tutoring a student might be, essentially, to ‘get them through’ an exam, it doesn’t have to be dull and boring! Yes, the focus might have to be on past examination papers, but always look for innovative approaches that will inspire the learner.
- Connect with your tutees
Getting through to a student is vital. All of us learn in different ways and prefer different styles. It can be hard to cater for everyone in a class of 30, but it’s essential to a class of 1!
An effective private tutor understands a student’s needs precisely and can devise strategies to address those needs.
- Embrace technology
Young people are intuitive with technology and are very tech savvy. Look for opportunities to build on this in your sessions. It will help with engagement – and it could be a useful way for a student to extend their learning in their own time.
- Set homework
On that note, it is important to set homework that builds on the content of a tutoring session. Using apps could be a way to do this. You don’t want to over-burden a student, but follow-up work, independent study or research is always beneficial.
- Make it personal
You will be thoroughly professional at all times, of course. But making tutoring sessions personal is one of the most important factors in becoming an effective private tutor.
Use personalised approaches that suit the needs of a learner. Create an individualised learning plan and take a personal interest in the student.
Follow these tips, and you will become an effective private tutor – one who inspires and has a real impact.