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How I Prepared Myself to Start Tutoring

Going back to tutoring after not having done it for a few years required quite a bit of preparation before I started tutoring again. I thought it might be helpful especially to people just starting out as tutors to describe the 3 steps I took to prepare myself for my latest tutoring job. All the steps were equally important, so I'll just list them in the order in which I did them.

The first thing I did to prepare for the tutoring job was to carefully plot out the route to their house. I used Google Maps to find the route options from my house to their house, and found the easiest route. Finding the optimal route for distance and time can come later. For the first time, the only thing that mattered was what would be the simplest route, with the fewest turns and back roads. I then used street view to get a good look at all the unfamiliar streets, and I was even able to use street view to see what their house looked like. I printed out the map and directions to bring with me, as a back-up just in case the GPS failed. It rarely fails, but that has happened to me! It's important to take every precaution to be sure to get there, and get there on time, on the first day of tutoring.

The next thing I did was to get on the Internet to find exactly what is taught in my student's grade in the subject I'd be tutoring. This step could probably be skipped by someone who only tutors in one single subject. But one of the main reasons why I went into elementary education was because I didn't wanted to teach just one subject; that just seemed too boring to me. I like to teach everything, and that's the big advantage of elementary education. But I don't think any normal human being could possibly remember exactly what is taught in every subject in every grade! So before I started tutoring, I went on the internet and did a search for the subject and grade. I also got a workbook at a bookstore for that grade in that subject, which was even more useful than what I was able to find on-line. Between those two sources, it was easy to see what is expected for that grade, at least according to national standards, so I would have a good idea of what he should already know and what I'd be teaching him.

And the last thing I did was to prepare emotionally. To teach children it is just as important to understand children as it is to understand the material you're teaching. I think that's a big reason why homeschooling is so successful: nobody knows children as well as their own parents do. Tutors don't have that advantage, but we all do have the advantage of having once been that age! It's just a matter of remembering what it feels like to be that age. Children do think and feel very differently from the way adults think and feel. I've found the best way to understand children is to remember how I felt and what the world seemed like to me when I was their age. And I've discovered a very effective way to do that for me. I went to the Internet and looked up what songs were hit songs at the time when I was the child's age, and found songs that I can remember having heard back then. (One was "Never My Love" by The Association.) I spent the couple days before I started tutoring listening to as many of those songs as I could find, over and over. I actually went for walks through the woods while I listened to them, which is what I always do to relax. Listening to those songs from my past helped to bring back memories of how I felt and how the world seemed to me when I was that age. And then when I started tutoring, those memories were a big help in understanding how the child I was teaching thought and felt. Of course, all children are different, so it would be ridiculous to think any child is going to think exactly as you did at that age! But what's important is being aware of just how different everything seems to a child compared to how they seem to us now. And remembering what it was like to be his age was the best way for me to understand the young boy I was tutoring and know how to treat him and how to teach him.

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