As we begin the third decade of the 21st century, automation is becoming more commonplace, whether it be in production, banking, or customer service. Education has not been spared from the trend, as the internet is littered with neatly packaged instructional videos showing people how to do or learn basically anything. While there are plenty of advantages to technological evolution (online account management is so much easier than going to a bank, for example), sometimes we just want to talk to another human being.
Sure, a video may teach you how solve a problem, but it won’t answer any follow-up questions you may have.
What is tutoring?
Essentially, it’s private teaching: rather than instructing a group of students, a tutor works privately with individual students. Tutoring isn’t limited to any particular type of student, though.
There are several common misconceptions about tutoring, with almost all of them centered on the mistaken belief that it’s only for those who need to improve their grades or those who can afford personalized help on a regular basis. The truth is that personal tutoring gives anyone an advantage, whether you are a student, a professional, or someone just starting your career.
Since everyone can benefit from the expertise of an experience tutor, it’s best to know what tutoring really is—and what it isn’t.
A tutor is not simply another schoolteacher
While many tutors are either current or former schoolteachers, the role of a tutor is different than that of a teacher. Teachers instruct groups of students, while tutors work primarily person-to-person. There’s a different dynamic when managing a class, so teachers need to be concerned with the progress of large number of students over the course of an entire school year.
If you think that sounds like a tall task, you’d be right! For the most part, schoolteachers do an excellent job of juggling their many responsibilities, but even the best teachers can’t give their full attention to each of their students. Since tutors aren’t addressing a room full of students (in-person or virtually), they are much more suited to personalized instruction. Although “diversified instruction” has been a hot topic for years, it’s not something that can ever fully be realized by a single classroom teacher.
That’s where personal tutors come in—when students need that extra help that teachers just can’t offer.
A tutor is a personal educator and coach
What does a tutor do? In the simplest terms, a tutor helps you figure things out. More than anything else, tutors explain.
All of us have had moments where we were confused and needed additional information to understand. Not everyone’s questions will be answered, and some of us may be apprehensive about even asking. When our questions are heard and we get the right explanation, we can move on to the next topic.
But when that explanation doesn’t come—or when it’s inadequate—we can’t take that next step. Regardless of why confusion occurs, it’s critical that students’ questions are answered and that they receive that additional information as soon as possible.
One-on-one tutoring goes beyond basic explanation, though. Yes, tutors provide instruction, but they also offer input, feedback, and expert advice. When students feel comfortable asking questions about school subjects, they will begin to see their tutor as an educational coach—someone who can speak into the students’ lives and offer expert direction on how to improve and advance along their academic journey.
A tutor is not a babysitter or surrogate parent
During the Covid shutdown in the spring of 2020, parents were dealt the dual blow of having to work from home (or worse, losing their jobs) and having their kids suddenly learning from home as well. Not surprisingly, they felt overwhelmed when forced to take a larger role in their children’s instruction. Many turned to outside help by hiring tutors and, in some cases, actual schoolteachers to provide supplemental instruction and oversight. Some tutors played the role of teacher and professor during that time as they provided more than just private tutoring.
What we all learned during that time was that most parents don’t want to be teachers. At the same time, however, we found out that teachers are no substitute for parents. During a global pandemic, though, educational and parental roles can get jumbled. Moving forward, we all now have a stronger understanding of how parents, teachers, and tutors have specific responsibilities in students’ education.
Yes, tutors can have expanded roles as academic coaches, but they must never be mistaken for nannies or child-care workers. They are expert instructors whose skill and experience should be utilized in their intended capacities.
Tutors have both specialized and wide-ranging expertise
Tutors come in all experiences and sizes, from a multitude of backgrounds. Some are teachers or professors working a side hustle, while others have made tutoring their full-time profession. There are also peer tutors, whether it be students who have the knowledge and ability to assist those taking similar courses or industry experts who help others in their field improve their skills and advance their careers. Many tutors have a broad range of knowledge and can provide support in a variety of subjects, thus saving you the effort of finding multiple tutors.
If it’s specialized expertise you’re looking for, then you’re in luck! Beyond those who tutor in the standard school subjects, there are others who focus specifically on certain areas, whether it be organic chemistry, Japanese, SAT preparation, or playing the cello. There are even some professionals out there who are already experts in their field that want to help others rise to the same level.
Tutors don’t do students’ work for them
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to declare. While the overwhelming majority of students and parents who seek out tutors are doing so out of honest intentions, there are some who trying to hire someone who will do their assignments for them. Professional tutors are not educational “mercenaries” who can be contracted to do the work students are supposed to be doing.
Tutoring brings greater benefits than simply improved grades or test scores
It’s sometimes been said that the river of learning in the United States is a mile wide and an inch deep. The academic system the nation has created certainly tends to spread itself thin by covering many topics each school year. Not surprisingly, some students feel left behind as the course moves on to the next topic before they have mastered the previous one.
With one-on-one instruction from a tutor, though, students can not only catch up, but also gain a depth of learning that can’t be achieved in the classroom. This is important both for students who need support building up their prerequisite skills and for those high-achieving students who want to be challenged beyond what they learn at school.
The one-on-one nature of personal tutoring can lead to relationships that are broader and more fulfilling than what can be achieved with schoolteachers. One of the biggest rewards of long-term tutoring is the level of trust between student and tutor. When a student feels comfortable with a certain tutor, he or she will trust that tutor to provide assistance in other academic areas. For example, a student may ask for a math tutor to provide help with physics, even if that tutor isn’t particularly knowledgeable about physics.
In such a situation, the trust is more important than the expertise. Over the years students spend in high school and college, a tutor can become a mentor in their lives, providing direction and advice on furthering their education, applying for internships, and entering the workforce.
Online tutoring is not some inferior substitute for in-person instruction
When schools around the world closed their doors in March 2020, teachers who had never taught anything online suddenly had to learn a new skill on the fly. And although they have certainly stepped up their game since then, it’s pretty much clear to everyone that online instruction is simply not as effective as in-person instruction for large groups of students. The same is not true for tutors, however, as they can provide online learning to students one-on-one, tailoring entire sessions to fit each one’s individual needs.
Thanks to the development and continued refinement of powerful online tools, student and tutors can interact just as effectively as they could in person.
While Covid forced remote learning on everyone for a while, tutoring has continued primarily online since the Spring 2020 lockdowns. If we look at the big picture, though, it becomes clear that the pandemic simply accelerated an already existing trend. A year before we had even heard of the novel coronavirus, the data showed students preferring online to in-person tutoring.
Toward the end of 2019, Wyzant reported on some stunning tutoring facts: more than 60% of tutoring sessions were being conducted online, where only two years earlier that number was less than 20%. By mid-2020, that trend had been kicked into overdrive, with online tutoring sessions increasing by more than 150% from the previous year.
Even as we all hope for relief from pandemic restrictions by the end of 2021, it’s become apparent that many of the practices adopted during the last year will become norms. Just as more work meetings will continue to be video calls, the bulk of tutoring is likely to be online.
Online tutoring greatly expands the pool of available tutors
Prior to the educational changes effected by lockdowns and school closures, many students and parents first looked for tutoring help in their geographic area. Meanwhile, tutors often sought the benefit of word-of-mouth referrals where news of their expertise spread throughout the local community. The pandemic ended up flipping the script on conventional thinking, though. For a while, the only help available was online, and students got used to looking for remote rather than in-person instruction.
Things have now gotten to the point where online tutoring has become the default for the vast majority of students and parents alike. Everyone is realizing that by no longer limiting themselves to whoever is within driving distance, they now have access to a vastly deeper pool of tutors.
Tutoring is not just for students who are struggling
You may be wondering, “Should I hire a tutor?” Well, as long it’s financially feasible, the answer is almost always “Yes!” While many people still think of a tutor as someone who provides additional instruction and support for students whose grades are slipping, there are other situations where tutoring offers real benefits.
- Test preparation: There are lots of tests out there to take, whether it be at the high school level (SAT, ACT, state assessments), in college (GRE, GMAT), or elsewhere (ASVAB, GED, LSAT, Praxis, nursing exams, licensing and certification tests). Everyone benefits from the guidance of a skilled test-prep tutor who can teach both the strategies and the content knowledge necessary to attain your target score.
- Narrowing the learning gap: While summer and even shorter school breaks can produce learning loss, a global pandemic can cause even more severe learning gaps. Educators, parents and students are all recognizing this unfortunate result of the system switching instantly from in-person to remote (or hybrid) learning. Tutors can provide that extra boost to get students caught up so that they’re not behind when the next school year begins.
- Enrichment: While some students may be falling behind, others feel as if their schoolwork is too easy. If your child is one of those high-achieving students that usually gets straight A’s, you may notice that he or she has been getting bored with the pace and content of remote learning. What that student needs is academic challenge—something that can be provided by an expert tutor. By introducing more advanced topics to such students, tutors can both deepen the understanding of such students and get them motivated to learn again.
- Professional development: Long gone are the days where college graduates looked to get plugged into a company and then stay there for 30-plus years. Now workers actively seek out new opportunities on a regular basis and aren’t afraid to change employers, occupations, or even careers. To keep their options open, today’s professionals are building their skills and expanding their knowledge. With more experts in the field now also working as tutors, there are even more resources available if you are one of those people who wants to evolve and flourish professionally.
- Finding a job: If you’re just starting out in your career, then you’ll need help with all that goes into job-seeking. Thankfully, there are a host of tutors out there who can open up the job-seeker’s playbook and share all the resources and tips you’ll need to get started in your new career, from writing résumés to preparing for interviews to developing supplemental skills.
There are a multitude of tutors available right now
Regardless of how old you are or what stage of education you’re in, there’s never been a better time to seek out a tutor to assist you.
Yes, there is certainly a lot to consider when searching for the right tutor, including tutor qualifications, student learning style, and the availability of everyone involved. For your benefit, though, the process of requesting a tutor has been organized online in an efficient way that causes as little stress as possible.
The right one is out there for you, so now is the time to reach out and request the expert assistance of an experienced tutor!