The Goal of Tutoring

As tutors, our work puts us in an odd position. While part of our income depends upon spending time serving students, serving students means that we help them improve until they no longer need our assistance. In this sense, we work to make ourselves unnecessary. Some people might speculate that we would be motivated therefore to work less efficiently, to drag things out & spend more time than necessary to achieve our students' goals.
I can't really speak for other tutors, but I'm idealistic enough to believe that all of us want our students to be as successful as possible, as efficiently as possible, and we want them (and, in the case of children, their parents) to feel satisfied that we are working hard to do what is best at every moment & that they are getting their money's worth. After all, our great reputations as tutors ensure that we will acquire other students in the future - some of whom will perhaps replace those students who have improved enough to continue learning without our aid.
A recent experience even showed me that parents, too, can learn from us - and then feel more confident to take over the tutoring duties themselves. I had tutored a public school student in math & writing once each week for about a month, and her father more-or-less observed each session. Like many of our students, she is bright & motivated to succeed, but needed some guidance, feedback, and affirmation. This particular student lacked confidence about problem solving processes & forming her writing into effective form. She was a pleasant student who worked hard for me & complied with my directions cheerfully, so her work improved rather quickly. I believe her father also benefitted from his observations of me: the way I spoke to her, how I carefully chose questions to check for understanding & to elicit critical thinking about her work, how I used her oral explanations as a prelude to writing those same explanations, etc. I also consulted both of them on methods to track her school assignments & organize her effort to complete them on time.
In about a month, the father was ready to take over the tutoring duties - and they are probably both doing just fine! As for me, I'm grateful that I could help a student improve academically while also assisting their parent to turn homework time into additional constructive time spent together.
To my colleagues, please continue working hard to serve our students in the most appropriate way - in hope that they soon will be ready to dismiss you. To our students, continue working effectively & cooperatively with your tutors, make your best effort at all times, and gratify us with your understanding & achievement. All of us have the same goal: that you will no longer need our assistance!


I agree wholeheartedly with the temporary aspect of tutoring. But it is worth it when you see the "ah-hah" moment on their faces and when you can see the gears turning in their minds (so to speak) when they finally get it. It is a worthy endeavor to teach one student one at a time like this. This is how we change the world, by the one on one.  I don't see how I could teach a classroom full of students, but one on one I can....
I love it, Gregg, when a student shows that they understand something better because of something I did, or said, or directed them to do! This may be what I enjoy most about private tutoring: that I can get virtually immediate improvement from a student by working with them one-on-one. Being a classroom teacher helps me to better appreciate the advantages of private tutoring - that I am not distracted by the needs of 20 different students & one student is not held back from immediate progress if 19 other students are not ready to move on...
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