By Stuart J Adams
For many parents trying to choose the right tutor, it can be a bit like choosing a car if you've never driven one before. You know you want one that's 'good' but it can be a bit confusing knowing how to judge what makes one good or not. Although there's plenty of 'user friendly' advice resources that first time car buyers can find online, finding someone to help you know how to choose the best tutor is a lot more difficult, even though the tutor you choose for your son or your daughter may well be a far more important decision that impacts their future than most others you will have to make. Your child's tutor is after all, not just another teacher; they will be your son or daughters own personal role model.
Why It's So Important To Choose The Right Tutor
Whether our kids are struggling with their confidence or just struggling with everything; parents who know their children well enough know full well, that the attitude they form towards their schoolwork will have the biggest impact on their performance. And the attitude they establish is largely determined by their surroundings.
You know how the class they are in at school has a big impact on how well they perform? A different teacher and a different group of classmates can make a big difference sometimes. Well consider that when we're talking a private one-on-one tutor, the difference here can be even bigger. If you get a tutor who does not understand the way your child learns best, who makes each lesson boring or tedious and does not make learning specifically relevant to your child, then the overall experience will be a negative one.
So if your son or daughter has already established a negative feel towards the areas they need more help, then this is the last thing you want. Get a tutor who has the ability to change the way your child thinks about and feels towards their schoolwork in a positive way however, and the rest will fall into place from there.
Are They A Teacher Or Just A Student?
Just like a first time car buyer might be looking for a car "that goes fast" or that is the right color many parents who are uncertain what to look for in a tutor make the same common assumptions. The most common one is that a classroom school teacher makes the best tutor. Whilst a classroom teacher certainly would have some of the right experiences and understandings about learning and about classroom curriculum, not all school teachers make good tutors and not all great tutors are school teachers. It's a bit like the confused car owner looking for something safe, who buys a 4WD with the assumption that being a 4WD automatically makes it safer. In may be, but not necessarily. Having a better idea of what personal attributes to look for would put you in a far better position to make the right decision.
Personality - A Good Tutor Is A People Person
The most important personal attribute of any good tutor is the ability to communicate in a way that makes the learner feel motivated, enthusiastic and confident in their ability to master and enjoy whatever challenges come along. In other words, a good tutor must have good people skills, particularly when it comes to making learning fun and interesting for young students.
They must be able to explain complicated concepts in a way that 'makes sense' to their student, and must be able to do so in a way that inspires their student want to engage in what they are learning. No matter what the tutors qualifications, work experience or job title is, if they are not able to do that then they will fail your child.
Whilst many school teacher's and highly qualified professions are great at doing this, we have not found any significant correlation between these personal attributes and any specific qualifications. Instead, we do find significant correlations between these attributes and specific personality traits. For that reason, a good tutoring company will look at a tutors communication style and personality; not just the degrees they hold or the marks they achieved at school or university.
Should I Just Find Someone Privately?
You might be able to find a tutor who works in a 'sole trader' role in your local area. Just as buying a car from a private sale might be a bit cheaper than getting one through a reputable dealer with a warranty, finding someone operating as an individual for cash in hand jobs might be cheaper too, however there is also much less certainty about the reliability of who you're getting.
If you are going to find someone this way, it is still important to find out if they follow the above criteria by asking them what their approach to tuition is specifically. Depending on how much you value legitimacy and legal requirements, you might also wish to make sure that they have passed a working with children check, hold a valid liability insurance policy and that they're willing to provide you with invoices and other legitimate paperwork.
As a general rule, it is always better and more reliable to find a tutor employees by a reputable company. The question that parent's want answered therefore is how to know whether a particular company really does provide a good quality service, or whether they just look good on the surface. The following gives you some guidelines to know what to look for.
How To Differentiate A Good Tutoring Company From A Dud
The first way to tell is to have a look at their recruitment process, by pretending as though you are looking for work with that company as a tutor. Which criteria do they emphasize as being the most important? Do the seem more preoccupied with things that can be quantified on a piece of paper, or attributed that are qualified in a personality?
The second thing is to make sure that the company provides specific training to their tutors, and stipulates that their tutors follow a specified approach. If they don't, then basically all the company is doing is acting as a middleman, whilst sending you out a tutor to do whatever the tutor pleases. This is kind of like buying a car without knowing anything about the car that you're being sold, other than that it's a car that has passed the dealerships standards.
This is actually a common problem you will find among tutoring companies. The reason that they often do not provide specific training or required procedures to their tutors is because quite often, the tutors are sub contractors rather than employees. A company can't really require a sub contractor to follow company rules the same way an employee must. Sub contractors are cheaper to provide work to, which is why many tutoring companies do it this way. For this reason, always ask whether the tutor is an employee or a sub contractor, and if they are an employee; what kind of training to they receive and what kind of standards does the company require them to adhere to? If the company is confident in their own standards, they should have no problem providing you with specific details.
What Standards Are Important For A Tutoring Company
Specific Curriculum: Many tutoring companies have their own curriculum that their tutors are required to follow, irrespective of what areas the student needs specific help with and irrespective of what the student is doing at school during class. For students who are already achieving top marks at class and want to extend their skills, then this approach can be like 'cross training'. For students struggling in particular areas and want to do better in class, this approach tends to be confusing and overwhelm the student.
For this reason, make sure that the company specifies that their tutors take steps to ensure that they find our specifically what your child is doing in class, and follow their classroom curriculum. Make sure they also take steps to find out what your child needs specific help with, and is flexible enough to be able to focus on those areas.
Communication With School: The most effective way of doing this is when the tutor actually takes steps to communicate with the child's teacher(s) at school. If your tutor is able to form a good rapport with your child's school teacher, it is a great way to bridge the gap of communication between the home and the school. It helps the tutor know specifically what is going on in the classroom. If there are particular areas that your child's school teacher knows they need more assistance with that they do not have time for, they can just tell their tutor who can give them the added assistance they really need.
Because this is such a critical part of good tuition, you should not only insist that your child's tutor is willing to communicate with your child's school teacher, but that they are willing to initiate communication.
No Lock In Contracts: If you are not happy with your tutor, you should be under no obligation to continue with them, and only be charged for the lessons you have already had. Any company who wants to charge you up front fees or lock in contracts should be avoided. If the company knows that their employees are great tutors, there should be no need to do this.
Focus On Specific Skills: Ask about what specific skills the company's employees are required to focus on. Do they focus on computer skills as well as no computer skills, or is it only one or the other? Do they focus on specific confidence building strategies, or will they treat your child as an emotionless robot? Do they also provide opportunity to focus on assessment skills, higher order thinking skills and autonomous leaning skills? Do they specifically aim to find out what kind of learning styles your child is strongest in, or do they treat everyone as though they are the same?
Additional Support: A good tutoring company does more than just provide parents with a tutor. A good tutoring company cares about understanding each parents specific concerns, and aims to empower parents to know what they can do to support their children's learning needs. Check the companies website to see if they have a login section for parents, and find out what additional resources and support services they provide for parents specifically, or are they just a middleman?
For more resources and information on choosing the right Tutors Sydney, see the Home Tutoring Sydney website for more details.