Many kids benefit from the assistance of a trained tutor, but how do you know when it’s time to intervene? And once the decision is made, what strategies should be implemented to find a qualified tutor? Experts weigh in.
Many kids benefit from the assistance of a trained tutor, but how do you know when it’s time to intervene? And once the decision is made, what strategies should be implemented to find a qualified tutor?
Experts weigh in to educate parents on when and how to find the best tutor for students of any age.
The right time
When grades are suffering or a child has trouble retaining information that prevents him from moving through material, a tutor might be recommended.
“Typically, I’ll recommend it for the summer,” says Julie Devine, a third-grade teacher at Churchill Elementary in Oswego, Ill. “A tutor can be really helpful when kids need practice over the summer to retain concepts for going into the next year.”
Devine also says bringing in a tutor can help ease academic tension between a parent and child.
“Sometimes you just need a more objective party to help,” she says.
Falling grades aren’t the only signs teachers look for; even advanced students are good candidates for tutors, who have more time than teachers to further a student’s education.
“We have negative perceptions that tutoring is only for stupid people,” says Dr. Sandi Ayaz, executive director of the National Tutoring Association. “Because of that perception, some kids that need help, for any reason, don’t get it.”
Many folks have heard of learning styles, such as “visual” or “tactile,” but Ayaz suggests that we all have a learning preference as well.
Identifying things like a child’s need to know why something must be learned, the desire to make a personal connection to lessons, having a daily learning agenda or opportunity to work through “big picture” problems are the types of learning preferences Ayaz says a tutor can help with.
“When a student is being taught so far out of their preference, they’ll struggle,” says Ayaz, who says teachers just can’t teach toward everyone’s individual preference. “A certified tutor can explain things to them within their preference so that they get it and then teach the student to learn from any teacher.”
The right match
Devine says checking with your learning institution or word-of-mouth testimonials are the best ways to find a reputable tutor.
Ayaz says that word-of-mouth is her preferred method but urges parents to find a certified tutor whenever possible, which means that in addition to deep subject knowledge, they also know the laws involved, the differences between learning preferences and styles, and how to deal with various forms of culture shock that could affect a student.
Things to keep in mind
When looking for a tutor, Ayaz recommends selecting a tutor that has liability insurance, who plans to meet with your child in your home with another adult present or in a public place like a library. She advises sessions of only 30 minutes at a time.
“Most importantly, interview several tutors and make sure your child is a part of these interviews,” says Ayaz. “I firmly believe the child should have a say in selecting someone they feel comfortable with.”