As students work with their tutors to master new material and conquer difficult subject matter, they may find themselves opening up about sensitive topics regarding their academic journey.
This relationship, which can evolve into a trusting form of mentorship, may feel like it only flows in one direction because the student’s concerns are at the center of the dynamic. What a tutor may be thinking or feeling is often a mystery to her clients.
For students and parents curious about what a tutor thinks about her role, here are a few insights into what tutors often think but rarely have the opportunity to share.
It’s a falsehood to think that a student must achieve a perfect score in order to be successful, but students often apologize to tutors for not getting straight A’s. Tutors know that each student is an individual with her own set of talents and challenges. If a student truly worked her hardest and earned a C for her efforts, a tutor will still be proud.
Some parents want to be heavily involved in their child’s supplemental education and communicate with the tutor regularly, while other parents ask the tutor to work autonomously with the student. Parents often know the best learning environment for their child, and this is helpful information that can guide a tutor toward understanding a student’s needs. Also, in some cases, tutors may find that they need to help a student make a decision about her academic journey, and having a parent who is in the loop will ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Of course, if a parent is too involved, a tutor may feel stifled. When a parent is constantly monitoring sessions or readjusting expectations, it can hinder the relationship that a student and tutor can develop. For parents unsure about the best way to be involved in their child’s tutoring, it may be a good idea to ask the tutor about her preferences and set up a plan together.
Students may think that tutors expect them to start getting higher grades all around once they start working together; however, tutors understand that each student has her own priorities and may want to focus her energy on something specific. It’s OK for a student to say that she doesn’t care about an upcoming quiz but wants an A overall. Being realistic about goals will allow a tutor to know what to focus on so a student is satisfied with her progress.
This is important to keep in mind both for short- and long-term goals. Students should be specific and realistic about what they want to achieve in a given session (writing an entire essay in an hour is unlikely, but creating an outline that will make writing easier is an achievable goal) and throughout the semester or year.
It’s important that parents set goals keeping these principles in mind as well, and perhaps more importantly, that the goals of parents and students be aligned. For instance, if a parent expects a student to dramatically raise her GPA and test scores so she can apply to a top college, but a student is considering attending a nearby school that requires only a moderate increase in her GPA and test scores, a tutor will be left feeling confused about how to proceed.
Ideally, parents and students should talk about their goals together before the tutoring sessions begin. If there is a disagreement about the best direction to take, a tutor can help parents and students explore options together so there is no confusion about what will be accomplished during the sessions.
Tutors become invested in their students’ success and want to be sure their customers are happy with the results. This is why consistency is so important. Tutors have a harder time getting students where they need to be academically if they aren’t meeting on a regular basis or predictable schedule.
Additionally, frequent cancellations at the last minute leave the tutor wondering if her student will have enough time to study for tomorrow’s test or next week’s final exam. Also, less than a day’s notice (with the exception of an emergency) leaves the tutor with an inconsistent schedule and lower job security.
Tutors are often happy to work with a student with special education needs (e.g., autism, dyslexia, anxiety) but that doesn’t mean they are qualified. Parents who wish to hire a tutor to work with their child who has special needs should talk with the tutor about any potential issues that may occur.
Each situation is different; sometimes hiring a mainstream tutor will work out and sometimes it won’t. Maybe the tutor has a sibling with ADD or who had test anxiety when she was younger. Maybe the tutor is entirely unfamiliar as to how she will tackle special education needs. Parents should consider whether they want a tutor who can be an educator and possible mentor who may not have any experience with a special needs learner, or if they need the assistance of a certified special needs teacher.
Students have the best understanding of what their teachers expect of them and what they must achieve for a given assignment. Even if a tutor has years of experience, she is unfamiliar with the specific styles of each of her students’ teachers. This is why it’s essential that students communicate the context of their assignments or exams. It’s helpful for tutors to see past work from their students so they can understand what they should be working toward.
If a student wasn’t able to get through an assignment or a reading, it is better to be honest than to try to pretend the work was completed. Tutors can tells when students are being vague in their assignments or answers. It’s a better use of time to work together on whatever didn’t get done than to try to pretend and do poorly.
Getting help from a tutor is a great first step toward getting a better grade, but it’s just that: a step. While a tutor can facilitate learning material in a new way or answer a student’s questions, the student still needs to do the work to succeed. Just having a tutor isn’t enough to thrive academically. Students need to take their tutor’s recommendations to heart to see improvement.
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