Physics Tutors, Devon Tutors, Dorset Tutors

Teaching and tutoring are not the same things. Teachers and tutors are different breeds of educators, we have seen amazing teachers turn out to be terrible tutors. On the other hand, we have seen amazing tutors turn out to be terrible teachers. Teachers and tutors need to have different skills. This article will discuss the best qualities tutors need to be amazing at what they do.

One: Ability to build one-to-one relationships

Tutors work primarily on a one-to-one basis with children. Anything that’s on a one-to-one is emotionally charged. If you criticise somebody when they are engaged in a one-to-one with you it really cuts deep. If you praise somebody when they’re in a one-to-one with you, that praise also goes in deeper. Tutors who do not respect or understand the deeper impact of feedback, run the risk of impacting children negatively when they really didn’t mean to. The relationship involves trust. The child needs to trust you; that you know what you’re doing, you know your subject matter and that it is safe to show the tutor when they are not sure or when they don’t understand. They need to trust the tutor to be able to explain what they’re struggling with. In many respects the tutor needs to trust the child too, they need to trust the child to say when they don’t understand. Any tutor and child relationship where the child is just nodding their head in agreement hoping their lesson will end soon is not a beneficial relationship. However, when tutors can praise, encourage, inspire and are relaxed in a one-to-one relationship, the child can be relaxed too. The child feels safe to be encouraged, to be inspired and want to grow into their own potential. Children who have had tutoring relationships that are relaxed and potential focused make phenomenal progress and excel academically.

Two: Focus on potential, not intelligence

There are two camps in the academic and educational world. One in which people think that intelligence is fixed and how you can learn depends on how intelligent you are. The second camp is where it’s not about intelligence, it’s about the potential and it’s about unlocking that potential. Thus, intelligence is not seen as a fixed guiding point at all.
Tutors need to be in the second camp. They need to look for potential in all children even when the children are struggling to understand something many other children might find easy. If you are a tutor who has the mindset, then you can find what it is that a child needs to understand something. For example, by changing the material and providing knowledge in a different way to the child so they can grasp understanding, you switch on learning in every child you see. Tutors who cannot see or search for potential, comfort themselves in intellectual limits, then tutoring is going through the motions as these tutors don’t really think the child can progress. In every instance, the tutoring should stop if the tutor thinks this way.

Three: Alter the learning pace to match the child’s pace

Tutors who can slow and speed up learning at a pace that is in tune with the child will always keep the child engaged. The pace of learning is really important. If it is too fast the child will feel helpless, feeling the material is unreachable and they will not be motivated to continue. On the flip side, if the learning is too slow, the child will feel frustrated or bored, and again the learning will not continue. So, it’s important for tutors to find a child’s natural pace with learning. However, it is equally important that a Tutor can realise that a child may find some things easier so need to go faster and other things harder so need to go slower. This pace also changes depending on how tired the child is and what’s going on in the child’s world. Lots of sporting activities or exam periods can tire students easily. So, The pace in learning is always dynamic, it’s by presenting material and then being in tune with how the child is processing the work and listening for feedback, even non-verbally, as to how the child is processing it, you allow yourself to be a compass and know how to alter the pace accordingly.

Four: Understanding that we all learn differently

Any tutor who understands that we all learn differently, and all have different ways of learning will be able to switch learning on in any child and facilitate educational and academic growth. However, if a tutor doesn’t really appreciate that we all learn differently, they may just tutor in a way that worked best for them. That’s not to say they won’t do great tutoring with a child, but that child will need to learn very similarly to how the tutor learned themselves for the tutoring sessions to work. Luck alone will match tutors and children who learn in the same way. However, luck will run out most of the time and sometimes children will be miss-matched. Yet, tutors who understand that we all learn differently, they will be looking for how each child individually learns. These tutors who understand the differences will constantly be searching for what works with each child and what does not work with every child. These differences will be separate for what does and doesn’t work when the tutor is trying to learn something new themselves. A tutor who can understand and search for how children individually learn can work with hundreds of children and bring the best out of them all. A tutor who can only educate in the way that they can learn themselves, can probably only support a handful of children they come across.

Five: Understanding that learning is scary for some children

This is similar to the paragraph above as we are talking about differences. Some children have a wonderful growth mindset and they just want to learn. If they don’t get something right the first time then they want to try again until they do get it right. They understand that learning is a process and they just need to practise. However, there are other types of children who fear making mistakes so much, that they don’t see learning as a process they just see it as something that will expose them as being failure. Sometimes, a child can have a learning process that is wonderful for some areas such as sport, they will be willing to practise and practise a sport until they get it right, but they are unable to apply the same learning mindset to something such as maths. We sometimes need to point this out to children and show them that learning is the same no matter what it is. However, we always need to understand and recognise that for some children the fear of being exposed and not being immediately good at something creates intense anxiety for them. For some children, they measure their sense of self-worth and how lovable they are by how well they do at their schoolwork. When a tutor can understand that learning for some children is scary and frightening, they can be more gentle in their approach, softer and sensitive with feedback. These tutors can continually help the child to gain a greater learning mindset that builds self-esteem as well as academic knowledge.

Six: Understanding that learning does not come naturally for some children

There used to be quite a trend in the 70s that learning will come to all at the right time. It was known as reading readiness, and it was psychologists like Piaget who believed that if you just had the right environmental conditions for the child, the learning would switch on itself. With the rise of many adults who struggled to gain literacy skills whilst they were at school, we do need to accept that it doesn’t always switch on naturally for everybody. It would also be quite unusual to be a tutor giving extra support if you think that learning switched on naturally. However, I have known a few tutors who believe it is a natural process. Tutors need to switch learning on in children, they need to help children problem-solve, engage, understand what’s being asked of them, and to forge neural connections in the mind to do with knowledge concepts and academic skills. Whether you are teaching a child to count and add numbers together or teaching them complex algebra, the neurological process is the same. We need to create a memory of what it is, then a memory of how to do it and then how to make that memory easy to recall. It doesn’t happen naturally for all children.

Seven: Make it fun

Tutors who can make learning fun are like gold. If they can bring humour and enjoyment into any tutoring session the child will open up, trust them and want to learn with that tutor. Anything that’s fun is easier. It doesn’t mean that you have to make the tutoring sessions complicated, elaborate or overly creative at every moment. If you are relaxed and you are enjoying the learning and you can make the child laugh at the same time that child will want to learn. It will also make the learning more memorable for the child. Tutors need to ask themselves, how they will make it engaging for this particular child in front of them, what is this particular child’s interest, and what switches on light bulbs in this child that wouldn’t do it for another child? Making learning fun is making learning easy, no matter what the subject or level.

Eight: knowing the difference between confidence and competence

When children are struggling at school they lack confidence. However, children are mouldable, more so than adults. You can help them to feel confident without touching their competence. This means you could tell a child that they just need to try harder and that they can really do it if they believe in themselves, this will build their confidence. Along with praise and validation, just by telling a child they are doing a great job, confidence can be instilled. However, confidence without any competence, that is the actual teaching of the subject, always has the risk of crushing the child in the classroom when their confidence can’t help them with their school work. So, for example, you can coach a child into believing that they are going to be better at maths, but without teaching them any math skills at the same time they are unlikely to get better at the subject. They will end up disappointing themselves and being disappointed in the tutor. On the other hand, teaching competence on its own might not be enough to help the child get better at a subject. For example, teaching a child math skills without any support and confidence might mean the child can now do the maths, but when they read a question that is going to test them, they will immediately tell themselves they can’t do it without trying. The best tutors will teach confidence and competence at exactly the same time and at exactly the same pace. Once this duality of confidence and competence is achieved the child has both newfound academic skills and the confidence to use them.

Nine: Can engage children and parents

The tutor has a unique place of being in a one-to-one with a child and having regular contact with the child’s parents. Whether it’s a brief conversation online before lesson starts, conversations over email and the telephone or when they enter and leave a child’s home tutors need to engage parents. Tutors need to be upfront and honest about the child’s difficulties, where the child needs help and where the strengths lie. Tutors should listen to the parent’s input, who often have spoken to the schools, teachers and the child themselves. Parents often know where the child is struggling and need help as in many cases a child will feel more confident in telling their parents where they are struggling before they trust the tutor. It’s also the parent’s way of being involved because they will often feel helpless to the child’s struggle as they don’t know how to help themselves, or their child won’t let them.
As well to know what each child needs, tutors need to know what the parent’s needs are too. Does the parent want regular feedback in some way, or does the parent just trust the grades or what the child says as a way of measuring if tuition is working? Each parent is unique as each child is unique, knowing what the parents and children need as well as what you can offer will always make an easy tutoring relationship that supports the child and the families the child lives in.
Tutoring is a complex and incredibly rewarding profession. Following all the above tips will make you a great tutor that everyone enjoys working with.

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