Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Finding a tutor

It is that time of year again. The children had nearly finished their summer holidays and there is this mad panic to find a tutor. But what sort of a tutor do you look for? How do you know whether the tutor is going to be any good full? How do you know whether the tutor is going to benefit your child?
Finding a tutor is a minefield, and there are plenty out there. Some have come from teaching, some because they have worked with children in other ways and feel that they would enjoy the giving back to more children. Others do it because they enjoy it, but which ones are going to be good for your child and which ones are going to know the most important aspect of tutoring; how to teach, what to teach, what your child needs, and how to convey to your child in the most exciting and enjoyable way.
I was talking to a mum the other day who was going through the 'hunt the 11+ tutor' process. As she so rightly said to me, it is an absolute mine field out there, but what do you do, it would be so easy to pick a name out of the book, but does that mean he or she will be any good for my son?
She related a story to me about a study centre in a local town. As she said, it may have been suitable for some children, but for her son really didn't work. She spent a lot of money, but her son gained very little, so there is another aspect we have to consider and that is value for money.
So what questions do you ask a tutor who you are anticipating using in some way or other?
Well, that will depend upon the subject all subjects you are hoping will be taught to your child. If you are after a practical subjects such as dance, piano, guitar, or any other such skill, then one of the things that you will automatically look for it is appropriate qualification. When you are asking somebody to do a similar job but in maths, English, primary education, GCSE, or even a level why should you not ask for qualification here? If somebody is going to teach swimming they have to be qualified to teach swimming, so to teach maths would it not be sensible to choose somebody who is qualified to teach maths? My first question therefore would be to ask what sort of qualifications this person has that makes them suitable for being a tutor and not be afraid to ask for those qualifications. I have been tutoring for five years in Kent, but I taught in full-time education for nearly 30 years before that, and I taught maths, science, and curriculum support at both primary and secondary levels. In the last five years of teaching I also took on teaching English to GCSE. Does this qualify me to teach French? Well no! But I am qualified to teach the core subjects. What do you'll tutors say when you contact them, have they experience, and will that experience be commensurate with the learning styles of your child? And that is the second question I would be posing to a would be tutor some might child.
I have met many a teacher who has one way of teaching and that is their only style, they have an unbending way of speaking to children and if the child does not understand then the child is lost. Would it not be better therefore for your child to go to a tutor who has more than one way of teaching something? One aspect of education that I worked in, was the teaching and development of teacher skills, especially in the area of developing different techniques for different ways of teaching. And how varied is the way in which they use equipment, games, the computer, the Internet, and other ways of teaching something? There is nothing more boring to a child that continuous pen and paper methods.
So we have looked at two aspects, qualification, and that doesn't necessarily mean they have to be a qualified teacher, the variation in teaching style, but what about the success rate?
If you are going to a tutor to support such examinations as the 11+, entrance exams, GCSE, A-level, would it not be a good idea to have some idea as to how successful these students have been as a consequence of working with the tutor?
When asked this, I am always very proud to say that I have over a 90% pass rate at 11+. Does the tutor you are looking at have similar percentage pass rates? Has this person being recommended to you? And if so why would they recommend it?
I have recently been told that the reason I am being recommended is threefold; I have good pass rates, I have a wide variation of styles which make the children enjoy their time with me, and I am well-qualified. Does the tutor you are looking at have the same recommendation?
As I have said earlier, finding a tutor is a minefield, and in this day and age with budgets being so tight, it is even more important to find someone who is truly good value for money. And this I would suggest is the last question to check up upon. How much do they charge? Once you have an idea of their prices, check, what do other tutors charge? What are people in the area willing to pay? What seems to be be about right price?
I know I could charge a lot more than I do, but my ethos is, I wish to help as many children as I can, and want to set up a long and lasting relationship with the child and the family. Does your prospective tutor had a similar set of values? Or is it truly an industry, where they are only in it for the salary?

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