Tutoring students is both a great responsibility and a rewarding experience. Very often the expectation you have from the job and what students or parents expect from you may differ.

It is important that you understand what you should and should not do as a tutor.

The dictionary defines a tutor as a person who gives individual, or is some cases a small group, instruction. This is not a satisfactory definition, the purpose of tutoring is to help students help themselves, and to assist or guide them to the point at which they become independent learners.

Let’s start by clearing a few things tutors should NOT do

Complete the student’s homework, take-home tests, or papers.

If your main job is helping students with homework and teaching material your students do not understand – please know that you’re on the wrong track. If you are doing student’s homework then you are doing a disservice to them; you are not helping them learn in anyway.

Similarly, do not “edit” a student’s paper; instead demonstrate/suggest ways to improve it.

E.g. When teaching math do not work the problems for the student, but instead identify weak links in the process. Show the steps needed to solve the problems and let students solve similar ones on their own.

Remember, tutor DO NOT provide a quick and simple answer. Tutors try to lead the student to self- discovery.

Be Inflexible

Each person learns in a different way. If you create a one-size-fits-all lesson plan or approach to teaching should be avoided. While it may save you time, it can hinder your ability to recognize the specific learning challenges of each of your pupils. It’s important to consider learning styles, progress speed and learning priorities.

Now, let’s talk about a few things tutors SHOULD do

Model good study habits and coach students on how to find the answers.

Ask the student questions like “what did your teacher say? Let’s look back at your notes. What does the textbook say? Can you find the place in the book where this is discussed?”

For e.g. When a tutor asks a question, “What is the least common denominator?” and the student does not remember the definition, most tutors will give the definition to the student. They may even ask the students to write it down. By doing this you have only taught the student that it is okay not to know an answer, and that someone will always give them the answer.  Real life does not work like this.

A good tutor will ask the student to find the definition in the textbook, and later check understanding by asking them to say it in their own words.

Help students identify gaps in their learning

A tutor helps the student breaks the big problem into smaller, do-able, simple tasks. This helps in understanding the basic sections the student is struggling with. Very often the students need to understand basic concepts before going further. This may frustrate some students who want to be done with it and not ‘waste their time’.

A tutor will help students relate current knowledge to prior knowledge.  A good tutor will not be satisfied when a student just gives an answer, but will instead ask them how they came to that solution.

There are a lot of things that can be added to this list like creating a safe environment for students to practice new skills, finding something positive in and encouraging student’s work.

What are some of the things that you look forward to do and do not do as a tutor?

Tell us in the comments below.