Finding the Right Tutor for Your Child
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Finding the Right Tutor for Your Child

Bad report cards can be a sign that help is needed. Know what questions to ask and what to expect when trying to find the right tutor or learning center for your child. The process can be complicated, but knowing where to start can make the experience far more rewarding.

Does your student's report card make you cringe? If so, you may need to consider getting your child additional help, and a tutor may be the solution. Before you hire anyone, though, there are many things to consider and many questions to ask.

1. Are you looking for a private tutor or a professional instructor?

What is the difference? Private tutors tend to be anyone who feels that he or she is capable of helping a struggling student learn. They might be gifted students, college graduates, retired professionals, etc. Private tutors may be willing to come to your home to tutor your student for a set hourly rate. They may also be willing to meet with your child in a public location. Professional instructors, on the hand, may work for a professional tutoring business, such as a learning center. With instructors employed by these businesses, you must bring your student to that center, as the tutor cannot come to your home or to a public location.

2. Which is better, a private tutor or a professional one?

Both kinds of instructors have their merits. A private tutor may already be known by your family, whereas it may take a few sessions for your student to warm up to a professional tutor. However, if you have no idea about how to find a private tutor or how to determine his or her qualifications, a professional tutor may be the way to go. Tutors employed by centers often undergo training in different subject areas, require background checks, and often are required to be licensed teachers. In terms of knowledge base, either kind of tutor will work - you will just have to make the right kinds of queries of any privately hired tutor in order to judge his or her qualifications.

3. If I decide on a private tutor, what should I know?

First, find out if the tutor's knowledge base suits the needs of your student. If your student is struggling in calculus, for example, hiring someone with limited math experience may not yield good results. When talking to the tutor, ask questions regarding what experiences he or she has had that are relevant. These relevant experiences may include past experiences as a tutor as well as course work from college that pertain to that subject area. Remember, you are, more or less, conducting an interview. ASK QUESTIONS! If the tutor claims to have worked with numerous students in the past, have him or her describe the successes and struggles those students had. Have the tutor describe how he or she modified teaching approaches. This is an important question to ask - you do not want an instructor who can only teach one way! Be sure to find out if the tutor only discusses content, or whether or not he or she will also help the student stay organized, develop plans for studying for tests, and discuss test-taking strategies. If the tutor's backround is satisfactory, ask for references. If the references are good, arrange a "trial" session. Good teaching only goes so far - personalities need to match too. If everything goes well, you will want to discuss payment arrangements prior to beginning any official instruction. Make sure both parties are clear on the terms of this arrangement! Don't forget that at any point, if the tutor is no longer a good match, you are not required to continue his or her employment.

4. If I decide on a professional tutor, what should I know?

In the tutoring business realm, you will have little to no interaction with the actual tutor. From the beginning, you will usually work with a director or other administrator who will go through the selection process to match your student with an appropriate instructor. This may seem like it requires an incredible amount of trust, but remember that these businesses do this kind of thing on a daily basis, so they will take considerations like learning style, personality type, specific needs, etc. as they select the appropriate tutors for your child. When interviewing potential learning centers, be sure to ask what the hiring qualifications are for their tutors - reputable companies will hire licensed teachers and conduct background checks. Also be sure to clarify rates, and whether those rates are per hour or per session.

5. What if I don't see progress right away? Did I choose the wrong instructor?

Not necessarily. Depending on how much your student was struggling, it may take time for the tutor to go back and teach the basics of the concept. Miracles don't happen overnight. However, if your student still seems to feel frustrated by the time the next report card rolls around, more intensive help may be necessary, as sometimes a struggle with math word problems, for example, can actually be indicators of signifcant reading comprehension issues. Keep in close contact with your child's teacher at school, as that teacher will be a great ally and resource in your child's academic career.

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