Help me be the best tutor EVER. Looking for any tips or advice, plus specifically tips for tutoring math, the kinds of obstacles I might face tutoring economically disadvantaged students, and tips for communicating with parents that may not speak English.
posted by Nattie to education (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I just got a job tutoring. I have tutored in the past (Japanese, debate, and writing) but the most recent time was a good six or seven years ago when I was about 20, and at the time I didn't much know what I was doing. My students did well enough, and I know I taught them techniques and methods and ways of organizing and studying because it just seemed like the obvious thing to do, but that wasn't explicitly on my mind as a goal of tutoring. Since talking to my husband who was a tutor in college, and my friend who was a teacher and is now a tutor, I've come to realize that modeling the learning process is very important. I've also come to realize there are perhaps other aspects of tutoring that are important, of which I'm not even aware.
So! Do you have any general tutoring tips? Goals I should keep in mind? Resources (books, articles, websites to read)? Helpful anecdotes?
Also, any tips for the more difficult problems I might encounter, such as dealing with students with behavioral issues or lack of motivation? I have some plans for getting past this and some of my own experience (I have ADHD) but I figure everything helps.
Possibly relevant details:
- I am tutoring through a larger company for which I'm a contractor. This means I have only some control over what I tutor and who I tutor. Ultimately, they assign me to someone and I am expected to tutor this person in the assigned subject through the semester.
- I will be tutoring middle school to high school-aged students.
- I have made it clear to the company that I would much prefer to teach writing -- creative writing, English essay writing, and other more argumentative types of essay writing. I am quite prepared to teach that; I know multiple methods and perspectives and have explained these things to different people in different ways, and I use them daily in my own life.
However, I have conceded that I could teach algebra if necessary; I was skipped a few years ahead in math in high school, but I quit taking it after freshman year because I no longer needed the credits and didn't like it as much as liberal arts subjects. In other words, I don't feel NEARLY as prepared to teach math; I was able to handle math class, but I use very little math in my daily life, have never had to explain it to anyone, and have hardly looked at in nearly a decade. Whenever I've needed math for something like programming or a spreadsheet, I've just felt it out; I've never known how to describe what I'm doing and I've never been confident with math in the abstract.
They are particularly desperate for math tutors, apparently, so I want to be prepared if they give me a math assignment. (I think I would like math a lot more now and have meant to get more into it anyway, there's just a lot of subjects I've felt that way about.) Any advice for teaching math specifically would be welcome, as would advice for reviewing it.
- I will very likely be tutoring students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and it is likely their parents will not speak English or not speak English well. This is not too worrisome to me as I grew up in a very low-income no-English neighborhood and I have some experience tutoring people from that background in a group; however for this job I will have to go to the place of living and deal with the student and their parent(s) directly, whereas in the past I always met students from that background at school and interacted with their teacher, not their parent. In fact, the only time I have ever had to deal with the parent of a student was when I tutored Japanese, and the student was from an affluent white family so there were no language issues or poverty issues or even a huge need for the tutoring; it was all elective.
The company has made clear that these students often face specific difficulties, and sometimes their parents can be difficult to deal with. Sometimes the student's education will fall in priority compared to economic needs. This means scheduling or even making the tutoring happen can be difficult -- as compared to simply meeting them at school -- and the parent may not be as enthusiastic or invested in their learning as a teacher would be. I am a bit apprehensive about this, but mainly because it feels vague in my mind and I'm not sure how to prepare or even what to prepare for; any stories of these kinds of difficulties would be appreciated.
I have also made it clear to the company that I do not speak Spanish (usually, but not always, the language the parents speak) but I'm not sure that they have many students whose parents they can guarantee speak English, and it sounds like it's very likely I will have to communicate with parents who don't speak English. The tutoring sessions will always be in English, and the students will always speak English, so I'm hoping the student will be able to translate for the parent when necessary. I am also trying to learn as much Spanish I can before I get my assignment in a few weeks. Is there anything I can try to prepare for, or anything about this kind of situation you wish someone had told you beforehand?
I realize a lot of obstacles can't be predicted, and I'll come back to AskMeFi if I get a really difficult or unexpected assignment. I have mentally prepared myself for the possibility of the assignment being an absolute nightmare, and I'm actually pretty okay with that; I am willing to handle a challenge for a semester and work through it. However, I would like some things to think about these next few weeks so I can feel more prepared. Thank you for any help!