Initial conversation with a potential tutor

You have decided you need a tutor for yourself or for your child.  Now you are searching for tutor ads in the newspaper classifieds, or on Kijiji or other tutoring sites on-line, or perhaps you have found a tutoring flyer on a community or school bulletin board, or someone you know has recommended a tutor. 


What next? Looking through the ads you have collected, you have picked out a tutor who looks like they might be a good fit for your needs.  It is time to contact them for the first time.  Are you prepared for this initial conversation? 

In this initial conversation, you and the tutor will discuss your tutoring needs in a general way, and decide whether this particular tutor could be the helper you need.  (Usually, if you both decide that this tutoring relationship might work out, you will want to get together and discuss the situation in greater depth at a consultation meeting or after a sample session. We will discuss that indepth meeting in the next post, the tutoring consultation meeting).

Here are some tips for this first, general, conversation:

Questions you may want to ask the tutor:

  • What are your qualifications?  What is your experience?
  • What methods might you use in this particular situation? (The tutor will ask you to describe, in general terms, the student’s needs)
  • When are you available? (mornings, afternoons, evenings, weekends, holidays)
  • Where do you prefer to meet with the student? (tutor’s home, student’s home, public library, etc)
  • What are your fees, and how do you expect to be paid?
  • How much involvement do you prefer from the parent?  Can I sit in on the sessions from time to time?  Do you expect the child to do tutoring homework?
  • Will you work as part of a team (with school personnel, medical professionals, parents, etc)?

 Questions the tutor may ask you:

  • In addition to some of the same questions you might be asking the tutor (such as when you are available, and how involved you as the parent want to be in the process), the tutor may also ask:
  • Why does this student need tutoring (test-taking problems? reading comprehension? basic skills? learning disabilities?)?  Tutors require this information in order to determine if they are qualified for the particular tutoring needs, and to begin to plan for the tutoring sessions.
  • What marks/grades has this student achieved in the past?  And what are the learning outcomes and goals you are hoping for (examples: to catch up to grade level in arithmetic; to be accepted into a particular college or course; to be able to read at a level required for a particular job; etc)? And:
  • How quickly do you hope these outcomes will be realized (number of sessions and/or time period)? The tutor needs to determine if the objectives are realistic, based on the student’s background and the amount of time available.
  • What are some of the student’s personal interests and likes? With this information, the tutor can plan sessions that the student will enjoy and find motivating.
  • Has the student encountered teaching methods he/she really dislikes, or personality styles he/she has had difficulty interacting with? Again, this will help the tutor plan.  But also, tutors realize that because of their own personality or teaching styles, that they might not be the ideal tutor for a particular student.

Are you committing yourself to hiring this tutor?

  • Of course not!  If, during this initial interview, you feel (for whatever reason) that this tutor is not the one you need, you are free to tell them that.  You may explain your reasons if you wish, but you are not obliged to do so.
  • On the other hand, you need to be aware that the tutor may also feel that she or he is not the best tutor for your needs, and may decline to accept the tutoring position you are requesting.

If you and the tutor are still both interested in pursuing this tutor-student relationship after your initial conversation, the tutor may well ask to meet you personally for a “consultation meeting” before the tutoring sessions actually begin.  Alternatively, the tutor may ask you (the parent) to sit in and observe the first session, and then have a discussion following the session. 

Either way, the tutor’s purpose for requesting an indepth meeting is to find out more precisely what is needed for the student, in order to provide the best possible learning experience.  It is also to provide the parent (or the adult student him/herself) with the opportunity to ask questions, make suggestions, and to decide whether or not to carry on with the tutoring relationship. 

We will discuss the indepth consultation meeting in our next post.

Discussion:  What other questions might you want to ask in your initial conversation with a potential tutor?  What questions and comments from the tutor would help you decide if this is the tutor for you?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Penticton tutor:  If you live in the Penticton area, and are looking for a tutor, be sure to check out my Penticton tutor information page!


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