are all tutors alike?

This is post #7 in the series:  Why do you need a tutor?

Are all tutors alike?

The simple answer to the question, “Are all tutors alike?” is of course “No.” Each tutor’s education, experience, and offerings are different.  Parents (and adult learners or college students) should, if possible, check out at least 3 or 4 potential tutors, before deciding on one.  We will go into greater depth on this topic in future posts, but here is an overview to consider.

Most tutors fill one (or possibly a combination) of the following roles:

1.  Subject specialist.  This tutor will have educational training and often many years of experience in teaching a particular subject.  This may be a school subject such as Chemistry 12, a college level subject such as Physics, a study-skills related topic such as SATs or note taking and test preparation, or even a more general-skills subject such as writing skills.  This expert can provide extra materials (more indepth lesson materials, or review materials of basic skills the student may lack), fill in gaps in the student’s background in the subject, clarify misunderstandings the student may have developed in the classroom, help the student find appropriate resources, and of course, teach that particular subject in the depth a learner needs, and in a way that that student best learns.

2.  Coach, mentor, counsellor.  Often a student’s learning problems are not really with the subject matter itself, but rather related to the person’s own learning styles, self-motivation or confidence, lack of necessary background, home difficulties, cultural differences, or a myriad of other factors.  What the student needs may not be a subject expert, but a helper who can discern the underlying problems, and find unique ways to help.  As a coach, they can help the learner build on required skills, and at the same time motivate, challenge, and provide feedback.  As a counselor, the tutor can question, listen, encourage, and if needed, help the learner find professional help they may require.  As a mentor, the tutor commits to stand alongside the learner for a long period of time, often personally modeling skills, observing the learner’s progress (on the job, in life, or in the educational setting, as appropriate), giving feedback and encouragement until the learner is able to achieve mastery and function fully on his or her own in the situation.  A mentor is almost always a coach and often a counsellor as well.

3. Assessor.  Sometimes in a large, busy classroom, or in a home situation where the parent (or adult learner) may be overwhelmed by other responsibilities or simply lack the knowledge, a student may “slip through the cracks.”  It may not be noticed, until a major problem develops, that the learner is not achieving the learning objectives, or that the learner has underlying problems that are causing learning failure.  This tutor will often have special training and experience in such fields as special needs, or medical issues.  This tutor will help to assess what the particular problems may be, and then (if qualified) help to overcome the difficulties, or, more likely, point the parent to appropriate professionals who can help the learner.  If the learner is in school, this tutor-assessor will also work closely with the teacher and the school staff, informing them of his or her observations.  Often the school itself will then be able to provide the necessary help through their own resource system, but if that seems to be failing, the assessor can suggest other alternatives for the parents (or the adult learner) to explore.

What kind of tutor do you need?  Before hiring a tutor, make a list of your requirements.  Then ask each potential tutor questions that relate to those requirements.  Don’t be afraid to also ask for a list of other students the tutor has worked with so you can speak with them personally.  We will talk more in some future posts about good questions to ask potential tutors.

Remember, if you live in the Penticton area and need a tutor, I may be able to help you.  Check out my tutoring information and please contact me if you think I might be the tutor for you.


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