We complain relentlessly about the deficiencies of the US education system. So we mustn’t duplicate them in the world of private tutelage!

This is an important subject to discuss, as the private instruction market and tutoring services in the USA grows from year to year, attracting more instructors, who see this as an extra activity to supplement their income as well as a full-time employment.

This means that competition is high among private teachers, which encourages healthy rivalry as you are applying for tutoring jobs. As a consequence, however, we recommend taking some time for reflection and preparation before jumping right into the private instruction adventure.

What better place than Superprof, a platform for online tutoring with so many talented instructors in a vast range of topics and disciplines, to begin the journey? There’s no need to enroll in an expensive and time-consuming certificate course (although it can help to be a certified teacher): this article will allow you to brush up on some key points, and learn the main secrets of the trade of one-on-one tutoring and academic success.

Happy reading!

The ideal structure of a tutoring session

Sure, arriving at your student’s home (or computer screen- if you are an online tutor) with a blasé frame of mind without having prepared is tempting. But keep in mind that you run the risk of getting fired after your first hour! We wouldn’t want that, now would we?

The Roman adage Si vis pacem, para bellum (“If you want peace, prepare for war”) is actually applicable to the tutoring system! This is the same whether you are a math tutor, English tutor, science tutor, writing tutor, a French tutor or a tutor of standardized exams like the SAT, ACT or GMAT…

Now don’t get nervous, we’re not talking phalanxes or swords. Your weapons for home tutoring are more like teaching materials and study exercises! No half-decent professor would ever give a lecture without even a minimum of preparation: it should be the same for you. Preparation is key to your confidence as an instructor and how informed you will be to help your student improve in his her or education.

Now, ask yourself about the ideal organization of a private tutoring session. A successful pedagogical one-on-one comes down to six golden rules:

  • Identifying the needs of the learner
  • Determining which goals to strive towards
  • Creating an individualized programme (from test prep to remedial learning)
  • Reinforcing training sessions through interactive dialogue
  • Rewarding the student’s efforts
  • Analyzing the results

Why not pick up on more ideas to structure the perfect private tutoring lesson?

Tutor and tutee
A tutoring session. Source: VisualHunt.com

These general rules apply to most types of private instruction, from intensive internships, learning a foreign language and ESL training, SAT prep, study skills training, and pure remediation to e-learning… Following them dutifully will mean that no one – not the tutor, tutee or parents – will waste their time, and everyone should be pleased with the results!

The first hour is especially important at setting yourself up for a good overall teaching-learning experience. You can start applying the golden rules from this time on! You will especially need to evaluate the level of the student and to set the goals you and your student would like to see over the course of the instruction. This step must be undertaken with tact, so as to not antagonize the students or parents. (And this will result in positive testimonials!)

Always have confidence in yourself! This is a definite prerequisite to a successful teaching practice. Human qualities are at the heart of this process. A healthy dialogue and respectful tutor-tutee relationship, coupled with your confidence and preparation, and your personalized, made-to-measure study program, is a surefire way to come away with satisfied and loyal tutoring customers!

We also recommend supplying yourself with a lot of high-quality, innovative revision materials, that are enjoyable for students if possible (especially for the youngest ages). This will help keep your students’ motivation high, as well make a good impression to your clients. These can apply variously to a range of education topics, including reading comprehension, standardized testing such as the SAT, or grammar.

You should also look for and highlight the natural aptitudes and efforts of your students. Above all else, private tutelage should not reproduce the austerity and the gloominess that often reigns supreme in conventional classrooms! After all, these are often the reasons why students lose their motivation in school and head to tutoring centers or the internet to find a tutor.

All your valiant efforts will be rewarded when your tutees become more independent thinkers and learners, and see their grades improve from week to week.

Here is a guide on how to tutor.

How to give a great private lesson

The private tutor that you are or who you hope to become must provide an interdisciplinary, complete and varied education. Let’s now leave the generalities and focus on concrete examples, teaching tools and real-life applications.

What makes the difference between a boring, below par and a great private lesson at home? Are there tricks or secrets to help you know what to do and what to avoid?

The first thing to take into account, is to figure out if you are really cut out for this profession. Remember, all temperaments are not suitable for the teaching trade, which is one of the hardest and most demanding out there.

As we said above, in a personalized lesson, human virtues are especially important, whether you are an algebra tutor or a writing tutor. Listening, patience, self-sacrifice, and love of learning and teaching… there are many faculties to possess to survive professionally. Other than these general qualities, we encourage you to be yourselves.

Math equations
Tutoring in math is always on high demand! Source : VisualHunt.com

In a market where much is on offer, all the more so in urban areas, the ability to mark yourself out and stand out in the crowd (in a good way, of course!) is of prime importance. So we encourage you to let your natural, brilliant personality shine! Your students will respond to that.

But how else can you stand out?

Start by integrating certain ground rules. For example, it seems pertinent to begin with about ten minutes of revision or recitation of what was learned the previous week. This would be the occasion to point out to your student the progress achieved—as well as the shortcomings that must still be addressed.

In contrast, at the end of the class, you must remember to boost the spirit of your young student by opening up the lesson to new perspectives, going beyond abstract scholarly themes: point out some concrete “real life” applications, and expose what useful things are hiding under mathematic theorems, for example.

Join the discussion: how much does tutoring aid a student's progress?

Identify the shortcomings and reinforce the skills of your students

Identifying the student’s challenges in private instruction is the sign of a good teacher. This pedagogical capacity of great importance is innate in some instructors, but it can also become learned through practicing.

To maintain a good mood and positive ambiance in your one on one tutoring, you must never point out an error or shortcoming without combining it with a positive encouragement. Otherwise you risk hindering the work drive of the student.

When alone and not under the spotlight of a class of 30 other students, your student may shock you with his or her seriousness, attention and depth of thinking. This is the power of small group academic tutoring. There is no need to hide face to keep a cool image in front of mates! A frank and sincere relationship should be upheld with your students and their parents.

Reading time!
A good tutor can impact a child's development enormously. VisualHunt.com

What’s more, the subjective feeling of the student, paradoxically, has almost as much importance as his or her scholastic knowledge in this process. Knowing how to use psychological tools in your teaching practice will distinguish dilettantes from high-quality educators.

Sometimes, when the student makes numerous and huge errors, it is imperative to categorize them in order of importance and priority. This way we are obliged to leave some to the side to address later as we correct the more consequential mistakes. In your long-term tutoring program, little by little, step-by-step, you will make big strides this way.

Correcting the little things adds up to a lot! And you will see with your own eyes the efficiency of a tutoring session!

Assigning homework to your students

This is a pitfall that most beginner instructors run into. Should you assign homework to your students to complete between sessions?

While these extra assignments are often necessary, the weight of this secondary work can often feel quite heavy to the sometimes stressed and overburdened student trying to understand calculus…

First axiom: homework must never be imposed without cause. That’s to say, it must have a clearly defined end-result: improving in spelling, writing, conjugating, etc. It isn’t a question of handing out work to show the student’s parents that you are working their kid like you should…

Second principle: the student must always understand the point and reasoning behind the given assignment. Without this, he or she will have no desire to do it, and as a result, no motivation, and it will all become counter-productive.

Other than a pain in your neck, you won’t obtain anything from this! (and certainly nothing productive) Most of the time, junior high and high school students who have difficulty with learning (except in the case of those with dyslexia or another learning disability) in reality simply have trouble with working alone and organizing themselves (time management, note taking, etc.).

This is why it is so important to concentrate on methodology, to teach them how to work at and absorb their lessons. You will be providing them with an immense service, that their regular teacher (or a free tutoring service) usually doesn’t have the time to give.

This would be the occasion to share mnemonic and other techniques with your students, like re-reading his or her lessons one last time before going to sleep.

Another good idea would be to encourage your students (especially pre-adolescents) to get to know themselves better: it is easy to find exercises on the Internet that will allow your students to learn what type of memory they are most compatible with (hearing, kinesthetic, visual, sensory, short term, long term…). From there, you can better implement individualized techniques that chime with their personality and learning process.

The rhythm in a typical classroom is often the cause for a student’s shortcomings. Source: VisualHunt.com

After all this reflection and preparation, your next “assignment” is to keep smiling and stay positive! All that’s left to do is jump right in!

Now discover how to design perfect school support lesson plans!

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