From being unprepared during tutoring sessions to placing too much emphasis on their preset lesson plans, new tutors make a plethora of mistakes at their first teaching job.
Here are a list of five of common mistakes a new home tutor might make, along with advice on how to avoid them.
1. Set Some Ground Rules
Some new tutors make the mistake of being too friendly. They allow the child to set the rules, giving them too much leeway in an attempt to be likeable. As a tutor, this is something you should avoid. Connecting with your student is well and good, recommended even; but always remember to stay professional as well. You are the child’s tutor; their parents have hired you to help them with their studies, not to be their friend.
A way to avoid this is to set the rules from the beginning, and then stick to them. Make sure the child knows that they must fulfil certain objectives by the end of the lesson. If the conversation becomes too personal or casual for your liking, redirect it towards the subject being studied. You, not the student, needs to set the group rules in your student-teacher relationship.
2. Always Keep Parents in the Loop
As a new tutor, you may find the idea of connecting to your students’ parents daunting, and so you may avoid doing it entirely. However, this avoidance is a big mistake. Consistent communication is very important, especially if you are a new tutor. You need to show parents that you’re 100% credible and professional, capable of delivering the results they expect.
When you talk to them, take a deep breath and stay calm. To stop yourself from feeling flustered or forgetting your points, keep a rough sheet of pointers in front of you. Make sure you are organized; keep a file on each student and update it regularly. This will help you to stay on point when discussing your student’s progress with their parents. Remember to be confident, but take note of their concerns as well.
3. Strike a Balance between Structure and Flexibility
As a home tutor, you’ll need to help the student and set the guidelines, but remember that all children are different. They have different academic abilities and different personalities. New tutors often make the mistake of trying to implement the same system for all their students. This can make them appear too rigid, strict and inflexible. This is a wrong approach because every child needs structure and guidance according to their individual capabilities.
A way to avoid this problem is to ‘strike a balance’. Define a structure, set goals for each lesson but be ready to adjust when and where needed. If a student struggles with a concept, slow down; if they understand it like the back of their hand, just review it and move on.
4. Teach Only Familiar Subjects
New tutors don’t have the experience their more experienced colleagues have, and this is something they need to keep in mind. Don’t teach a subject you aren’t sure of. If you’re a humanities major, stick to that. Teaching sciences at a higher level will impact both you and the student negatively. As a new tutor, you need to build up your reputation, and sticking to subjects you know well will help you do that.
5. Never Promise the Sky
You may be very tempted to, but don’t make sky-high promises! Making lofty promises that you can’t possibly fulfil will only damage the tentative parent-tutor relationship. Sell yourself according to your strengths. Show the parents that you know your subject, are passionate about it, and can tutor their child in the right way. Remember that sometimes, less is more.
6. Focus on the child’s learning
Tutoring doesn’t mean you need to keep the kid busy. As a home tutor, your job is to make sure they actually grasp challenging concepts and areas. You shouldn’t be so occupied with ‘getting through it all’ that you fail to keep track of the child’s academic progress. The student should benefit from the time you spend tutoring them. As a tutor, your job is to teach the child and to identify and overcome their deficiencies. To do this, you need to give high value to the actual lessons. Anything else is secondary.
7. Be a teacher, not a crutch
Tutors often make the mistake of spoon-feeding their students all the knowledge and information so as to ‘rush them through’ the syllabus. You can avoid this by guiding them and pushing them to contribute to the lessons by continuously engaging them into conversations and quizzing them on what they’ve learned. Personalize the lessons. Ask them things like; ‘Why is that?’ ‘What do you think?’ ‘How do you think this happened?’ This will push them to think, to understand and to absorb.
8. Make sure you are being clear
One of the biggest complaints students have is that their tutors aren’t clarifying the concepts properly. To avoid this, you need to pause and check to see if they understand. Students will usually say ‘yes’ automatically, whether it’s true or not. So push them a bit by asking questions to check their understanding. Also, have defined but realistic explanations. Most children absorb information best if they have real-life examples to compare it to. Appeal to their senses, draw out scenarios, throw in sports and pop references wherever you can. This will help you connect to them on a deeper level.
The mistakes new tutors make stem from their lack of confidence and experience. A new home tutor either overestimates or underestimate their capabilities. They go in either over-prepared, or not at all.
So make sure to keep all these mistakes in mind and find your own ways to avoid them!