Albert Einstein once said that, "The role of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge."
Perhaps it's for this reason that you've come to the decision to become a private tutor and beginning giving private lessons in students' homes.
Whether it represents supplemental income or your primary occupation, tutoring is not something you learn overnight.
Transmitting your knowledge to students to help them progress requires certain aptitudes.
Before anything else, it seems obvious to point out that you need to be supremely competent in the subject matter that you want to teach.
But beyond that primary concern, private tutors also need certain interpersonal skills that enable them to be good academic teachers.
A Sense of Sharing
Academic tutoring is a fundamentally an act of sharing between two people.
Whether a student is having difficulty in a class or whether they simply want to bring their grades up, they've turned to you to learn something new. And build on it.
So a love for sharing your knowledge is a trait that's integral to being a tutor.
This generosity enables you to take real pleasure from helping students make progress. You have to love doing this, for the obvious reason that the students will sense it.
Everyone remembers a teacher from middle or high school who seemed to be dragging their feet. They didn't seem invested and recited their lessons mechanically. Even if they knew the material very well, they made the classes boring because of their attitude.
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Generally, teachers who bore their students don't have a real desire to share what they know.
And this applies whether it's a class of thirty students in high school or a private tutoring session.
From the first meeting, your student and their parents will feel your passion and generosity. Having these essential qualities will enable you to give more lessons, because that first impression that you leave them with is what will convince them that your lessons will be excellent.
This enthusiasm of yours will also have a positive impact in terms of future students. Having a tutor who exudes enthusiasm during a lesson is important for them to want to improve their own work.
This also has a more long-term effect, because enthusiasm is contagious.
Your smile, your love of teaching, and your real passion for sharing knowledge will inspire your students to commit to studying. The exercises you do together, the homework that you give them, and they knowledge that you pass along will stop feeling like chores.
In an obvious situation of cause and effect, the passion and generosity that you demonstrate during your lessons will only increase, and quickly, the number of students you give lessons to.
Word of mouth, after all, is the best form of advertising.
Patience and Educational Know-how
After passion and a fondness for sharing knowledge, being a tutor also requires a fair amount of patience and educational know-how.
Tutors also need to be able to adapt to all styles of teaching.
Patience is essential because you might find yourself face-to-face with students who are having real difficulties at school. It's not always the case, of course, but parents of children who struggle with the entire educational system often call on tutors to help students rekindle the taste for learning.
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In this situation, being patient enables better cooperation between tutor and student and means taking time to go over each lesson and challenge. Progress is not as easy as snapping your fingers. So perseverance helps the tutor avoid becoming discouraged by a student's slow progress.
Being impatient and expecting a student's grades to go up after just an hour of tutoring is hardly the best attitude to adopt. In fact it's just the opposite. It's necessary to take time to get to know your students and understand their personality.
This will help you adapt your educational methodology to the temperament of your student, which will lead to more lasting results over time.
In addition to superlative patience, a tutor needs to have a sound understanding of teaching methods (pedagogy). This, too, will help you find more students.
It's truly an inherent aspect of the profession of private tutoring. Since the word is often misused, it's perhaps necessary to analyze what the word "pedagogy" means.
At its most basic, pedagogy is the art of teaching and developing a love of learning. To expand on this definition, we need only look at the etymology of the word. It comes from the Greek paidagōgia, which translates to "I lead a child." Amazing, right?
Pedagogy, then, truly is about leading children towards knowledge, not necessarily giving it to them, but leading them to it so they may take it for themselves. Think of it in terms of the biblical proverb: "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime."
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The principle of pedagogy is the same no matter what the subject. Your role, as a private tutor, is to give your students the tools to seek to learn. The specific pedagogical approaches vary from one tutor to the next, depending on a number of factors. Ways of making the lessons fun and interactive online exercises are, for example, excellent ways to help encourage this thirst for knowledge.
Patience, to bring this together, is of course absolutely necessary when thinking about pedagogy and your approach with a particular student.
Ability to Adapt
If you decide to become a private in-home tutor and begin your career as an academic supporter, you need to have a real capacity for adaptation.
Whether you give private lessons in Arabic, English as a Second Language (ESL), physics, biology, or math, every lesson will be individualized. This means that unlike a teacher in a school classroom, who can be responsible for up to thirty students at a time, a tutor can interact with each of their many students differently over the course of the week.
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So even though a tutor might be teaching the same material to each of these students, their pedagogical approach as they help students with their homework will be different each session.
Take an example from a foreign language lesson. A tutor who teaches Spanish lessons might sit down with a freshman in high school who needs real help to keep up with the rest of the class, and then in the next hour give a lesson to a senior studying for an A.P. Spanish exam.
The two lessons, although they both deal with Spanish, are thus very different. It's for this reason that private tutors need to be adaptable.
As a teacher, you need to be able to quickly make adjustments and vary your methodology as you rapidly make assessments. This is not always a skill you'll learn in school.
And what's valuable for foreign language classes is valuable for all of the other disciplines as well. This capacity to adapt is indispensable, whether you're giving lessons on math, philosophy, or any of the sciences.
Excellent Interpersonal Skills
Private in-home tutoring lessons also require exceptional social skills.
Whether you're an English tutor or a math teacher, you need to create a real connection with your students. Communication dictates each tutoring session, from the first exchange on.
Having a good sense of interpersonal interactions allows you to leave favorable impressions on your students and their parents during the interview. It also helps you create a trusting climate that will have an impact should they choose to hire you.
Then, when the lessons begin, it can lead to greater success with the students. In those situations as well, communication is the best way of finding the best solutions and approaches to each challenge. It's through discussing, with the students, that tutors will find the best supplemental exercises to help, but also to understand the full scope of the student's difficulties, in order to discuss them with teachers and parents.
When helping a student prepare for an exam like the SAT, for example, bear in mind that a high school student might be under a lot of stress to do very well. The tutor's interpersonal skills can help calm the student down and learn everything peacefully.
In a broader sense, it can be difficult for a tutor to impart good speaking skills to a student if they themselves aren't very good at communicating.
Being a private tutor obviously requires certain competencies in the material being taught, but other traits are just as essential. Patience, understanding of pedagogy, being passionate about sharing knowledge, and having great interpersonal skills are indispensable aptitudes to have.
Even if you don't think you possess all of these skills and you still want to give tutoring lessons, you can always develop them. Nothing is immutable!
You can take teacher-training classes, or acting classes, which can help enhance your skills as a private tutor and enable lots of students!
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