5 Questions to Consider Before Hiring a Tutor
How long does tutoring take? This is a question I am often asked. When you are new to tutoring, it can seem a little risky paying upwards of $15/hr. for a tutor and not knowing the outcome in advance. Here are five questions you should ask yourself before making the investment:
1. Is the problem really academics?
If it is, the student will be struggling with concepts, study skills, or organization. If it isn’t academics, poor grades might be a reflection of poor time management skills, too many things on a student’s plate (not the same as poor time management), a work ethic issue, boredom, or frustrations in school or life that do not have to do with learning concepts.
All of these issues should be addressed, but a tutor can only really effect academics and study/organizational skills.
2. How much effort are you willing to give?
I only see most of my students once or twice a week for an hour each time. That means at the most, we study together for 8 hours a month. For tutoring to be really successful, the rest of that month’s study time should be spent by caregivers going over students’ homework, quizzing them, and just being involved in general. Check your student’s grades online, if your school district offers that option, or stay in contact with teachers to see how the student is doing in class.
Tutoring isn’t like Wheel of Fortune; You can’t buy a grade, you have to work for it.
3. How much time do you really have?
We give the most time to those things we prioritize most. Sports, music, arts, scouting, and other extracurricular activities are a lot of fun and can help a student become more well-rounded and fulfilled, however they remain what they are: Extra. There will always be time to explore other activities and interests, but learning to read and write and do math well are life-long skills that will serve your student throughout all their interests. I’ve had caregivers hire me, only to tell me at our first meeting to hurry up because, “soccer practice is in an hour”!
Kids and teens often have a ton of activities to balance… there is a difference between poor time management or lack of organization and feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and shutting down because of too many activities. Unfortunately many activities meant for kids and teens are very time-intensive. Consider too that kids and teens need far more sleep than they are generally given, so factor this in as well. Good focus begins with a good night’s sleep!
Regardless of the situation, students need a little time after a tutoring session to review and consider what was studied. Since tutoring sessions are often brain-intense, taking a short break is advised, but if students jump too quickly into the next activity, they will likely not remember much of what was studied.
4. Is your student motivated?
It can be frustratingly difficult to impart to our children and teens the importance of an education. Unfortunately, parents and educators cannot motivate students. Only the student can motivate themselves. You know the adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”? Well teaching is very much like that too. Despite popular thinking, teachers cannot motivate students to learn or study. Tutors cannot motivate students to learn or study. Parents cannot make a child want to learn, that is solely on the student, but parents can motivate students to study by taking away privileges. This is not a “punishment” although your student may feel it is. This is simply the consequences, the results, of certain actions namely falling grades.
Make a deal with your student. If they bring their grades up to a reasonable level (this will depend on your definition of reasonable, as well as your student’s abilities), they can earn _(insert privilege here)_ back. It might be video game time, a computer in their room, movie/TV night, events, activities, use of the car, etc. etc. Don’t bluff and don’t change the terms, but don’t back down either. If you have to, continue to remove privileges over time if students still refuse to bring up their grades.
Special note: Sometimes caregivers have a really, really hard time giving up a child’s extracurriculars, especially sports (this includes marching band), even temporarily. I know what a financial investment extracurriculars entail, as well as the time and energy commitment involved, and the desire to teach students about teamwork and keeping commitments. I understand how intense some coaches/band directors can be, and how hard students work (former band geek, Alto Sax, speaking). But let’s be real: The vast majority of students will not pursue their extracurricular of choice after highschool or college. That doesn’t mean these pursuits are not worthwhile, but that they should play second fiddle to academics.
Work first, play second.
5. So how long should tutoring take?
Well, it depends. It depends on the above factors, it depends on how far behind in a subject your student is, it depends on how hard they work to improve, and how much time you allow them to dedicate to improving. Take for example, two equally hard-working students, both in the same grade, both tutored during the same period of time, both with very supportive and involved caregivers. Student “A” I met with once a week for one hour, and after two months she had improved so much that she didn’t need me anymore for the subject she had originally needed help with (we continued to meet every other week for tutoring on a separate subject). Student “B” I met with for one hour twice a week, and after two months she had shown vast improvement. But she still needs intense tutoring because she was originally so far behind.
Again, how long tutoring takes will all depend on a variety of factors, but generally I work with students for around two to six months at a rate of one to two hours a week.