The purposes (and not) of tutors

This is post #2 in the series: How to choose the right tutor



The purposes (and not) of tutors:

In our previous series, “Why do you need a tutor?” we talked quite extensively about why tutors are needed in a number of situations:  for a child or in teen who is attending school; for learning difficulties related to home/personal situations; for college and university students; for adults in general; and for home schooled students and parents.

This post will quickly summarize some of the material we’ve already covered, and then will also tell you want a tutor CANNOT do for you.

In review, some things tutors do are:

  • deliver content information
  • motivate, coach, challenge, and provide feedback
  • help a student who has fallen behind to catch up
  • help a person to learn a subject, hobby, or employment skills outside the school environment
  • stretch a student who is finding school not challenging enough
  • give a student closer attention to his or her needs than is possible in the classroom environment
  • help a student raise levels of school performance
  • help a student increase their confidence, enjoyment and motivation in learning
  • work with the student’s overall study skills and discipline, not just the academic assignment of the moment, so that their learning improves across a number of subjects and over time
  • guide students in their homework
  • the tutor may also help the parents understand their child’s learning needs and styles, and show them useful, individualized ways to help their child learn
  • the tutor and the students work together as a learning team to meet goals and achievement benchmarks.  Parents, teachers, and other school professionals are often also part of the team to some degree.

Now onto what tutors do not do:

  • Tutors are not magicians.  They cannot instantly solve every problem and turn every student into the class star.  The goal should be to achieve overall progress for the student in order to reach his or her own individual potential.  This may be measured in various ways, depending on the situation and needs.  For example, you may be aiming for improved academic success or self-esteem, or you may be aiming for increased independence as a learner.  The parents (or the adult student) need to commit to working as a team with the tutor to set goals and plans for the student’s specific needs.
  • Generally, tutoring isn’t done in a single session, though occasionally that may be true for a very immediate, discrete need.   Tutoring usually aims to provide on-going consistent development until the goal is achieved.
  • The tutor is not a substitute for the student’s teacher and other professionals who may already be involved in helping with the student’s learning.  The tutor, rather, aims to be an addition to the team, providing one-on-one assistance that builds on and works with what the other team members are doing with the child. 
  • (Note: There are some tutors who live with a family and supply the educational needs of the children, especially in cases such as where a family travels widely; a child is involved heavily in sports, acting, etc; or when the parents favour personal private education over other educational formats.  Even in those cases, the tutor usually interacts with Ministry of Education requirements, and other professionals as required).
  • Likewise, a tutor is not a substitute home school parent.  The tutor will help both the parent and child together in the learning process.  Ideally, the parent will learn along with the child and eventually be able to take over as the child’s teacher and/or learning facilitator.
  • The tutor is not simply a babysitter, or someone who presents a lesson at a certain time.  Tutoring (like any educational situation), to be truly successful, requires the student (and the parent) to be willing to work with the tutor to reach the goals they plan together.  The student needs to come to the tutoring session prepared to learn.  This includes not only bringing necessary materials and doing any assigned work between sessions, but also being rested, fed, and so on.  It also requires emotional support of those important in the life of the student.
  • There are situations in which it may become evident that a student’s needs go beyond the abilities of the tutor.  Professional medical, emotional, personal or family counseling, or other help may be needed to solve underlying problems before a tutor can successfully help a student academically.
  • Each tutor specializes in a certain area, such as certain academic subject(s), certain grade levels, a particular hobby, particular employment skills, study skills, literacy skills, and so on.  It is best to find a tutor who is qualified and experienced in the area of the student’s needs.
  • Just as some students do not get along with a particular school teacher, there are times when it becomes evident that a student is not hitting it off with a certain tutor.  If this happens, and solutions cannot be found, a tutor should be willing to allow the student to move to a different tutor.

Choosing a tutor for yourself or your child is an important step in the learning journey.  Be sure you choose a tutor who can help you with your specific needs, but at the same time be realistic about the purposes of tutoring, and be prepared to seek other solutions if necessary, especially when there is an underlying problem that needs the help of other professionals.

Question:  What other situations can you think of when a tutor may not be the best choice for a student’s needs?

Do you live in the Penticton area and need a tutor?  Check out my tutoring page.

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