Expert Tips to Succeed as a Tutor

Loving your degree subject? Wondering what to do next and wanting to earn some decent money? Then, consider becoming a private tutor. There’s certainly a demand, and tutoring could become a rewarding full-time career. But even in the short term, it’s a lucrative side hustle that could improve your job prospects, while making a big difference to the students you teach. Our guest contributor, Sophia, gives some expert tips on becoming a successful tutor.


In some situations, academic success can be enhanced by private tutoring.  Perfect attendance in class may not be enough where schoolteachers have a lot to deal with, from an ever-growing list of administrative duties to overly crowded classrooms. Often, even Sixth Form pupils don’t get the individualised support and extra coaching they might need in the standard academic setting.


Private tutoring is not new but over the last few decades, the practice has morphed into a £7.5 billion dollar industry. About 10 years ago, technology made it possible to tutor online, via webcam. The coronavirus pandemic forced online learning to become commonplace. Now that students are back in school, tutoring online has given pupils greater access to the academic support they need.


One-to-one tutoring – and even small group tutoring personalise students’ learning experience. This format allows students and their mentors to forge trust bonds that are vital to the learning experience. Educators and parents alike have come to realise that personalised learning is more effective in shaping learners’ future success.


Photo: Sofatutor on Unsplash

What do you need to do to succeed as a tutor? Finding your niche and marketing your services effectively help. But it takes more than good advertising to find success as a private tutor. Read on to discover four aspects of quality tutoring that will see you rise above the rest.


Cultivate Communication Skills


A good teacher is an effective communicator. That doesn’t just mean modulating your tone and slowing your speech down, though that’s a part of it. Good communicators practise active listening, meaning they focus on what the speaker is saying to them. They ask clarifying questions – “Let me see if I understand you…” and “So you’re saying…, right?”. Active listening shows your students that you’re paying attention to what they’re saying. It engages them in the conversation; it makes them an equal part of the learning process. Too often at primary and secondary levels, communication is one-way; the teacher talks and the students listen. Giving your learners a platform equal to yours invests them in your two-way mentoring relationship.


Communication also involves body language and how you present yourself. As a woman who is six feet tall, I have to be aware of how imposing my appearance can be, especially for my youngest students. If you, too, cut an impressive figure, everything from the way you dress to how you move will impact how your students perceive you.


You must also learn how to interpret your pupils’ body language. They might not use words to tell you that they don’t understand something but their posture and facial expressions will say it for them. You should learn how to detect signs of stress, too. Often, students deal with issues that badly affect their academic learning. As their mentor, you have to watch for signs that all is not right and try to get to the bottom of things.


Develop Your Pedagogy


Your teaching style says a lot about the type of tutor you are. A friendly, enthusiastic tutor will likely earn high marks at the beginning of the learning partnership but that only goes so far. How you deliver information, the tools and materials you use during your lessons and how you mentor make all the difference.


As you bond with your pupils, you’ll learn about their interests, as well as their learning strengths and weaknesses. The best tutors connect each lesson to something that matters to their students. For instance, a pupil who’s mad about football will learn maths more enthusiastically if you weave their favourite team into the lesson.


The ‘learning styles’ concept has largely been debunked but that doesn’t mean that students don’t have go-to learning methods. Rather than pegging your pupils as visual or auditory learners, discover where their strengths lie, and tailor your lessons accordingly. If your student has a logical mindset, make that case during every lesson. Conversely, should they be wildly imaginative, cultivate that skill – and maybe don’t use so many visuals.


Know Your Subject Matter


It seems like this point would be a given but you’d be surprised to know how many people never progress beyond textbook smarts. To be sure, having academic knowledge is important. But to teach what you know, you have to be able to apply your knowledge. Knowing your subject matter means you can present nuggets of knowledge as they relate to some aspect of the student’s experience. For instance, one chemistry tutor in London I often collaborate with, uses common household items like shampoo and lemons to teach about pH values.


Making lessons fun and engaging is important but making them challenging is equally so. How rigorous should your lesson be before your pupil gets frustrated and gives up? The most successful tutors know their material (and their students) so well that they can intuit where that boundary lies.


Tutor Like You’re in Business


Whether you’re tutoring other university students through a peer tutoring program, or establishing yourself as an independent tutor, you need a business mindset. Your pupils need to believe that you’re their learning guide. So showing up late and unprepared could damage your credibility, and fast. At the very least, you should have a planner to schedule your lessons. You should also have materials ready for each student, which means you will have to keep track of where they are on their academic journey.


The most successful tutors keep a file on each of their students. During your first meeting, you’ll learn a bit about your pupil’s interests and learning strengths, and where they feel they need the most help. As you continue to work together, keep notes of your sessions and record their progress.


You may not have decided on making a career out of tutoring yet. Or perhaps you only need to earn a bit of money while you’re still at uni. Either way, approach your new venture as though it will be life-changing – both for you and your pupils. With that attitude and enthusiasm, it most likely will be.



About the Author

Sophia: A vagabond traveller whose first love is the written word, I advocate for continuous learning, cycling, and the joy only a beloved pet can bring.



Find out more:

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