5 Tips for Thriving as a Tutor

By Kailey Walters on August 6, 2017

There are many ways to make good use of all the knowledge you have stored inside your brain: that information you’ve absorbed from years of being in school, facts you’ve gleaned from reading or research you’ve done on your own, and even expertise you’ve gained from simply making it this far in life.

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If you think that sharing your knowledge with others might be a rewarding experience, tutoring could be a good option for you.

When thinking about becoming a tutor, there are many things to consider. In what subject matter do you want to tutor? What age level? How can you teach effectively to cater to the needs of your tutee?

Check out the following tips to improve your chances at becoming a great tutor.

Know your subject well

It pretty much goes without saying that whatever topic you choose to teach, you should know it well. That doesn’t mean you have to be an expert on the subject, but you should certainly be comfortable enough to talk about it, explain at least the basics, and answer your tutee’s questions.

You certainly want to come across as knowledgeable about your subject, as you don’t want your tutee to become confused or doubt your authority. So, if you decide to teach a certain topic but find that you’re a bit shaky on it, make sure to do your own homework. Spend some time brushing up on your skills so you’ll feel at least a little more confident imparting your knowledge to someone else.

Ultimately, knowing what you’re talking about is a win for both you and your tutee. Not only will you convey that you’re a capable and intelligent teacher but also your pupil will walk away from the lesson having learned something new and valuable for themselves.

Be flexible

Depending on what you tutor, the subject matter may be fluid — that is, approachable from multiple angles. If you tutor English or writing, for instance, you want to consider the many different ways students might approach a particular writing assignment or an interpretation of a piece of literature. Even if your student comes up with a response you weren’t expecting or prepared for, be respectful and open to what they have to say. You never know — maybe a point they come up with will challenge your own and end up expanding your own perspective.

Having a flexible approach of teaching the subject is also important. If your student is having difficulty grasping or mastering the concepts, you may consider tweaking your teaching tactics. Experiment with what style of teaching best works for a particular student, as each one has different needs and manners of learning.

Acknowledge that you won’t know some things

What also goes along with being flexible is being aware that you won’t know everything. Even if you do consider yourself an expert of sorts on calculus, you should still be open to the idea that you can make mistakes sometimes.

When/if that happens, turn that situation into an opportunity to relate to your tutee. Recovering gracefully from a minor mistake you made will remind your student that you, too, are capable of messing up sometimes and that you are understanding of their mistakes. This can even create a stronger relationship between you and the student, as they’ll feel less nervous about being judged for their mistakes and more comfortable around you.

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Consider your student audience to make sure you teach in an appropriate manner

You always want to be mindful of your audience because that informs the tactics you use. You would address your tutee differently based on whether they’re, say, a sixth grader seeking help in algebra versus a fellow college student looking for assistance with a term paper.

Set a specific goal for each tutoring session

The only way your student can make real progress is if he or she has a concrete goal to strive for. At each session, help them identify something specific they want to work on. It could be a very small goal that’s just one step in a larger process, which can help you to measure their progress steadily over time.

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