5 Things to Look For When Finding a Tutor
The demand for tutoring is on the rise. Recent surveys have reported up to 25% of Australian families are getting external support. But how do you know what to look out for? Without knowing how to tell the good from the bad, you might waste your money and time. As someone who has tutored for 8 years, here are 5 things to look for when finding a tutor.
1. Ask yourself whether a tutor is necessary (before looking)
It sounds obvious, but it’s important. Sometimes, you can have too much of a good thing. While education is important, so are other developmental areas like playing and socialising. If your child is doing well in school, I would not recommend getting excessive amounts of external help.
A good education is about balance – not non stop studying. In general, an hour or two of tutoring a week can be really helpful, but more than that can have a negative effect.
There are exceptions, but having copious amounts of tutoring can lead to dependency. When the goal should be to help create independent learners, the last thing you want is a student afraid to start without a tutor.
The take away is that tutoring in small doses is beneficial to most kids, so be wary of tutors or companies trying to upsell you for extra hours.
In general, an hour or two of tutoring a week can be really helpful
2. Does the tutor ask you any questions?
This may be the biggest giveaway on whether a tutor is going to be worth your time. Every child is different, meaning the problems they have are going to need different solutions. If you call a tutor and they just try to rush to book a time, hang up the call. This usually means they will be giving a bland, un-tailored service to your child.
If there is one thing that annoys me more than anything, it is people who refuse to individualise their tutoring. While they may not realise it, it can cause the child to think that even with extra help, the content is still boring. All they are doing is solidifying a negative mindset leading to longterm issues with learning.
You’ll see this practice most commonly in tutoring centers. As these are often just franchise owners who give worksheets to kids, they usually don’t care about the reason your child wants help. Avoid these in general as they are often far less value for your dollar and more often get seen as a chore by your child.
Every child is different, meaning the problems they have are going to need different solutions
3. Does the tutor ask you the right questions?
Building off the last step, if they ask questions, what questions do they ask? I’ve put together a list of some questions you might hear below. They’re separated into basic questions and individualised questions.
- What grade is the student in?
- What subject(s) are they needing help with?
- Where are you located
- Has this problem been an issue in the past?
- Does your child enjoy school – what things do they enjoy/not enjoy about it?
- Is there a similar problem across different subjects?
- Is your child wanting help?
- Have you noticed any changes in behavior at home?
While there is no substitute to meeting a student, it is a waste to not ask a parent key details. If the tutor or business you call doesn’t bother with individualised questions, it’s not a good sign. Problems with subjects are very often just a symptom of a deeper cause. Without finding out specific details, you may never end up helping to fix the actual cause of the problem.
If the person your talking to ignores these individualised questions, respond by ignoring them.
If the tutor or business you call doesn’t bother with individualised questions, it’s not a good sign
4. What’s the price?
While this may be what everyone thinks about when needing a tutor, it’s still a valid question. If you over commit to an expensive service, you might end up putting more pressure on your child to succeed. On the flip, if you take the lower options, you will often get people who have had no experience and are just looking for some side money. Pay peanuts, get monkeys.
So what can you expect to pay for tutoring? Some private tutors can range from as low as $20 p/hr to as high as $140 p/hr. Tutoring companies will usually range from $50 p/hr to as high as $80 p/hr. For reference, our tutoring at Stress Less Tutoring costs $66 p/hr.
In my experience, I would suggest only using private tutors who you either know or have had a recommendation from a friend. The problems are usually low experience/ability and can sometimes be unreliable in committing long-term. But if you find a good one, it can be good value for money.
Companies will be more consistent in their tutor standards, but be careful about business asking for extra fees and contracts. As a rule of thumb, any good tutoring business won’t ask you to book a term in advance. This is usually a sign that they aren’t confident that their service will be what makes you stay.
Companies will be more consistent in their tutor standards, but be careful about business asking for extra fees and contracts
5. Do they only focus on improving grades?
I’ve said it once, and I’ll likely keep saying it till I’m gone from this world – Education is not only about getting good grades. So help me, I would flash this in neon lights if I could. Quality education should be something that makes a child love the process of learning. The goal isn’t to do well just for high school – the goal is to learn over a lifetime.
While grades are important and are a good measurement tool for how well a student has understood a subject; they should not be the benchmark of quality learning.
The biggest sign to watch out for with tutors like this is that it almost becomes punishing a child into success. The worst part is that it might work in the short term, but it’s like pretending you’re rich because you’ve taken out a big loan – someday you’ll have to pay it back, with interest.
I make a big point in a lot of my writing on tutoring to focus on holistic learning since it focuses on a more balanced long term approach. My advice is that you should do the same.
it’s like pretending you’re rich because you’ve taken out a big loan – someday you’ll have to pay it back, with interest.
There you have it. You now have 5 different things to look out for when finding a tutor for your child.