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How pretentious: I'm claiming to offer advice to all parties in the tutoring process! But if you bear with me, I hope to actually offer some helpful advice. Some advice for parents: It’s easy for a parent to feel guilty. “I have to provide the best educational experience possible for my child. If I don’t, I’m a bad parent and a bad person.” Combine that with a lack of clarity about what “best” is, and it’s not wonder that there’s a lot of insecurity about this. Unscrupulous tutors take advantage of that. Do yourself a favor: take a breath, and breathe. You are not solely responsible for everything regarding your child. You, of course, have many responsibilities. But your first and most important obligation is to raise your child in a loving, safe environment. Nowhere is it written in the contract you signed when you became a parent that you will be held accountable for how well your child does in precalculus. Remind yourself, explicitly, in writing... read more

In principle, hiring a tutor is an enterprise that is anticipatory and deliberate. It involves anticipating what potential problems might crop up, using a student’s history and self-evaluation. Tutoring can also be in response to a desire to advance more quickly; it’s not always used to “fix” a “problem”. A parent might consult with friends, or with the student’s teacher, to obtain personal referrals. After interviewing a number of possible tutors, the parent and child, together, choose the tutor that embodies the combination of empathy, subject knowledge, teaching ability, and cost effectiveness. If this sounds like you, congratulations. No need to read onward, to find out how the rest of us in the real world live. If this doesn’t sound like you, don’t worry; you’re not alone, and I promise this won’t be a “you should feel guilty about this” post. Here’s how tutoring often works in practice. A student starts struggling in a subject, but that... read more

Currently, I'm tutoring a 9th grader in biology. After fielding some questions about cell division, he asks me, "Are you good at math?" I say, "Yes." we then work on a bit of geometry. He then asks me, "Are you good at English?" I told him that I am, and that's one of the reasons his mother picked me. I'm reasonably capable and knowledgeable in many areas. But the truth is a bit more complicated. I'm not a good tutor just because I know a lot of things about a lot of subjects. Knowledge helps, but it's not the whole story. Parents appreciate my subject area competence. But they appreciate my psychological insight more. For a number of reasons, I think I'm relatively good at "reading" students. Through some gentle questioning, and observation, I can infer things about their motivation, and their way of thinking. This is in the first meeting. With time, I can infer their values, hopes and fears, and tailor tutoring in a way that... read more

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