Finding a tutor can be daunting. There are many websites that list tutor profiles for you to view, but not all of them verify all of the tutor’s information, and having so many profiles at your disposal can be more overwhelming than helpful. Being a good tutor is a complicated mixture of personality, knowledge, education, experience, and, of course, teaching ability. Below I list some of my tips regarding what to look for in a tutor and what questions to ask.
- It’s totally reasonable to ask for an interview. Especially if you have a young child for whom you want to find a tutor, it’s understandable that you might want to meet that person before hiring them. Feel free to use that time to feel out their personality and ask any questions you have (some suggested topics below). If you live more than a few minutes’ drive from the tutor, it’s courteous to meet them halfway, but not necessarily required.
- Have an idea of your budget before shopping around. Tutor rates vary widely, from $10/hour to more than $100/hour. Some people in the lower end really could be charging more for their excellent services, and some in the upper end…probably aren’t worth it. It can be a confusing landscape to navigate, but going in with a rough idea of how much money you can spend per week or month can be a big help. Maybe you want a general homework help tutor, and you set your budget at $50/week. For that, you can get a mid-range tutor ($40-50/hour) once a week, or a $20-25/hour tutor twice a week, or a $10/hour tutor (perhaps a high school student) every weekday for an hour. Knowing your budget gives you these options, so you can consider which is best for you. Perhaps you’ll choose a tutor with a little less experience and/or education so you can have more consistent help.
- Education level is important, but it may not be the most important factor. It is important to take into account your goals for yourself or your child when weighing a tutor’s education level as a factor. Maybe you don’t need a tutor with a PhD to help your child with times tables. On the other hand, someone who has a degree in math or physics might be a smart choice for a calculus student – these people not only passed college calculus, but also used calculus throughout their college education, so they have had ample experience with the material. You may have other goals for tutoring as well. Perhaps you want your fifth-grade daughter to see that she can pursue an advanced science degree, so hiring a woman with a graduate degree in science or math might give her a role model to emulate and ask questions of. Sure, the tutor doesn’t need her PhD in chemistry to help your daughter understand solids, liquids, and gases, but she can offer a lot more than just academic help.
- You’re allowed to look for another tutor because you or your child simply do/does not like the one you currently have (or are considering). Personality is an important part of tutoring. Maybe the person makes you feel bad about getting problems wrong, so you don’t feel comfortable answering questions. This is a problem! You need to feel comfortable making mistakes and asking questions in order to learn, so if there is something about your tutor’s personality that throws you off, don’t feel bad about finding another. Sometimes it’s not something so obvious as that, but you simply don’t feel like you (or your child) and the tutor “click”. My advice is the same – you should be able to get the help you deserve in a way that works for you (that’s what tutoring is all about!).
- You don’t necessarily need a certified teacher or someone with an education degree. There are times when having a teacher tutor your child is the best way to go. If your child is really struggling and/or has a severe learning disability, you may want to seek out someone who has received a lot of education in how to help students like that. However, there are tutors out there who don’t have an education degree, but have subject-matter knowledge and have honed their one-on-one teaching skills through extensive experience. They can be excellent resources for you or your child!
- Tutoring experience matters. I have improved immensely since I started tutoring, and it is largely not due to my higher level of education. The more I do this, the more tricks and techniques I develop for explaining things a different way and for gauging how well a student understands. I also have a better idea of what topics in certain courses give people trouble, so I can address misconceptions right away. The more years of experience a tutor has, the more likely they will have developed these types of skills. Plus, this person might have reviews from past students that you can look through. If you found your tutor on a website and they don’t have any reviews on that one, chances are they are on several other sites where there might be reviews posted. You should feel free to ask about that. All of that being said, if you get a good feeling about someone who hasn’t been tutoring for very long, you should certainly give it a try! Which brings me to my last point…
- Go with your gut. Sometimes I’ve helped students in subjects I don’t usually tutor, and in which I’m definitely not an expert. In spite of that, my students are usually happy because they enjoy working with me, and I always put the time in to make sure I’m prepared on the topic(s). Maybe the tutor you find doesn’t have perfect 10’s in all the categories I talked about, but you just like them, and you feel comfortable with them. Go for it! You may have found someone who is just right for you.