Whether your child is struggling in a specific school subject, or simply needs to tune-up their study habits, a tutor provides an invaluable one-on-one resource for any student. Chuck Cohn, founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors, explains how to get the most of your child's tutoring experience.
As a parent, you know your child better than anyone. You know your child’s strengths, you know your child’s weaknesses, and you know when it’s time to call in some outside help.
Your child may be intelligent and driven, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is doing what it takes to excel in school. Sometimes kids don’t feel challenged enough and may need a personal mentor. Other times their natural attributes, which may translate well in the “real world,” simply don’t lend themselves to the current class work. Whatever your reasons may be for wanting a tutor for your child, here are some tips that can ensure a smooth transition for your student as he or she moves from group learning in the classroom to one-on-one sessions with a tutor.
Understanding What Tutors Can (and Can’t) Do
Many parents think that the minute their child starts working with a tutor, grades and test scores will instantly improve. This expectation is not only unrealistic, but it also misses a key point of tutoring. One of the most potent benefits a tutor can offer your child is the opportunity to become a better learner and an independent thinker. It’s true that tutoring will lead to better grades and test scores, but that won’t happen overnight.
Tutoring is meant to complement and supplement classroom learning, so you must choose a tutor who is knowledgeable in the subjects with which your student needs help. However, don’t expect the tutor to do your child’s homework! Becoming a better learner involves doing your own work. An athlete who wants to run faster or jump higher cannot avoid training. Likewise, academic improvement doesn’t happen without a student’s hard work.
One thing to prepare your child for is immediate and specific feedback. These comments and questions can feel like harsh criticism if the student isn’t ready for them, but this feedback is an integral part of the learning process.
One thing to prepare your child for is immediate and specific feedback. This is the biggest difference between a classroom environment and a one-on-one setting. Since tutors have the luxury of focusing on just one student, they can immediately point out when a student answers something incorrectly or doesn’t fully understand a concept. Comments and questions can feel like harsh criticism if the student isn’t ready for them, but this feedback is an integral part of the learning process. Encourage your child to see the feedback as proof that the tutor genuinely cares about their progress.
The flip side of the one-on-one setting is that the student can ask the tutor unlimited questions as well. Tutoring offers a unique resource for kids as their comprehension grows and allows for greater intellectual challenges. Remind your student to use the tutoring sessions wisely and not to hesitate to ask questions.
Your Role as a Parent
While hiring a tutor shows you are entrusting your child’s education to someone else, it does not mean you should excuse yourself from the situation altogether. It is vital to your child’s success that you keep communication open with everyone involved in the learning experience.
You can show that you care without being a helicopter parent. Help your child understand the benefits of working with a tutor, and encourage him or her to embrace the experience and actively participate. Emphasize that not every kid receives this type of invaluable opportunity.
Stay in touch with your child’s teachers to help the tutor maintain a beneficial lesson plan. Ask about key concepts and upcoming tests that may require additional effort. Tutoring is meant to complement the lessons covered in school, but your child’s tutor won’t inherently know about each class’ syllabus and schedule, so it is up to you to keep them informed.
You too can take advantage of the tutor as a resource. Make sure you are kept updated on the progress of the previous and upcoming sessions. Inquire about your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and anything else that can be done to foster improvement. Ask about the tutor’s own experiences with studying, test-taking, and applying to college. Ask for resources on specific academic subjects or standardized tests. Ask all the questions you want! A good tutor will have answers or be able to point you in the right direction.
This may sound like a lot of information to process, but it only takes a few minutes to engage in beneficial, informative conversations with your child and his or her teachers and tutor. A little extra effort on your part will truly help your child transition between classroom and one-on-one tutoring to ensure he or she gets the most out of every learning opportunity. Moreover, it will teach your child that success does not happen overnight, but rather with persistence, a sense of curiosity, and engagement. These are skills that will apply to all aspects of life — not just in the classroom.
Chuck Cohn is the CEO and founder of Varsity Tutors, a private academic tutoring and test prep provider designed to help students at all levels of education achieve academic excellence.