Some of my students get a lot more out of their tutoring than others and it has nothing to do with me.
There are two ways to make the most of that 1 or 2 hours a week you spend with your tutor.
Type 1: You can use it to catch up on the content that you had problems with when you did it in school.
Type 2: You can get a head start on the work that you will soon be doing in school.
I find that the first one is often the most common type of tutoring that happens these days. Parents often only hire a tutor when they become aware that their child is falling behind their peers in class. This inevitably leads to the first type of tutoring, which is often just an emergency intervention to help catch up with the rest of the class. There are some things that students themselves can do in order the maximise their benefits from this type of tutoring, the most important of which is an attitude change.
The average student comes home from school every day having not understood at least one thing, usually they just accept that loss and move on with their lives. Much of the time spent between students and tutors is finding out the areas that a student needs to work on. The students who get the most out of tutoring are the ones who already know what they need help with. A student with a tutor does not need to accept these losses. To get the most from their education they need to go from thinking about tutoring just during tutoring, and hopefully the few minutes before it as they get ready, to always having it in the back of their mind that they have a tutor who is willing and able to explain anything they did not understand about this subject to them.
It is about changing the way you think about what happens in school. Things do not have to be like they were before, if you don’t get something in class, and the teacher didn’t have the opportunity to explain it to you, then you don’t have to accept that you won’t figure that out until the second time around when you are doing some exam revision. You have a tutor who will be happy to take the time to ensure that you understand something that you found difficult in class. You should be remembering the things you found the most difficult in your lessons in school so that you can ask your tutor for help with it during your next lesson with them. In 6 weeks’ time when your teacher mentions it again you will be able to confidently complete work instead being a few steps behind where you left off the first time around.
Once the emergency has been dealt with and the student is now working at their expected level again then the student can either give up their tutor to a student who may need them more or the tutoring should naturally progress into the second type of tutoring.
The second type of tutoring is motivated by building confidence prior to lessons, often in higher ability students, to participate actively within lessons. When a student enters a lesson having already experienced pre-learning in that topic they are in a position to confidently engage accurately with the content and with the aid of the teacher they can probe more precisely into the areas that they don’t understand during the lesson.
In order to carry this out effectively both you and your tutor will have to know which topics you will be doing in future. On a rare occasion your tutor might have a professional relationship with your teacher and can ask them directly what you will be working on, but normally it is best for the student to do it. All you have to do is ask your teacher what you will be doing in the next lessons on a regular basis. Any department that is operating under good leadership should be working from a scheme of learning, if you want to go the extra mile ask your teacher for a copy of the scheme of learning and give it to your tutor. This will allow them to plan your sessions to map directly to your classes in school.
Making these minor changes to a student’s everyday life will drastically improve the quality of the tutoring they receive without having to change anything about the tutor.
Blog post by Paul Mulrennan
Having completed my undergraduate degree in University College Dublin, I moved to Bristol in 2015 to train to be a Science and Maths teacher at the University of the West of England. Having worked in schools I found I could have a much greater impact on my students working as a tutor. While running my tutoring business, I’ve continued to expand my subject knowledge as well as expanding into other fields like martial arts and security. Tutoring has given me access to a broad range of experiences, from helping GCSE students in the Outstanding schools of Bristol, to helping students who have been failed by the education system get a second chance at life.