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My Tutoring Fundamentals

Back in 2013 before I became a teacher or a tutor I wrote down my life's mission statement. "To help students identify and achieve their dreams and fulfill the immense potential of their talents." Everyday I think again of that statement and reevaluate if I'm on track or not. Being able to assist students academically is so rewarding and I'm glad that it does play a role in helping me live up to the lofty standard I set for myself back in 2013.

Unfortunately I'm only one person. Given that, I hope to one day train others to help out students academically as well. That will truly allow me to take my efforts to the next level so that I may help as many students as possible. With that in mind I list out my tutoring fundamentals. Hopefully they will help out other tutors, people, and students alike. They are "tutoring fundamentals" but they are also excellent strategies for learning or teaching in general.

  1. You don’t learn by watching. If I did I’d be playing in the NFL right now. (I watch a lot of football) You are not a good teacher because you can perfectly solve and explain a problem. Learning isn’t about what you can do, it’s about what you can get your student to do.

  2. Everything else you do is for naught if there isn’t a system for accountability. If information was the problem the advent of the internet and sites like Khan Academy would have created an ocean of A’s when it comes to school but the average grades of students hasn’t budged. Without accountability progress is minimized or in some cased completely stalled. (This is what my homework security deposit is for)

  3. Never workout the full problem you are going over. (Relates back to number 1) Ask the right questions and guide the student along. Remind them of the math topic that may be tripping them up in the moment in a separate example but never solve the problem for them.

  4. Track everything. I take pride in letting the statistics speak for themselves. When a parent calls I rarely interject my opinion when asked how the student is doing. I give the parents the facts. I can also use the stats to adjust my curriculum on the fly to suit the student’s needs.

  5. Always get your students CollegeBoard and ACT logins. Your only job is to increase your student’s score. If you’re not tracking that you are F’ing Up!

  6. Never spend a majority of your time going over practice tests. This is what most tutors do. No matter how good you may be at this you’ll never be more than the best of the mediocre when it comes to test prep. Would you teach a history class by teaching about world war 2, Chinese Dynasties, the ottoman empire, and the economic collapse of Argentina in the late 20th century all in the same day?

  7. Just because you went over a questions type or a practice test once doesn’t mean the student learned everything (or even most) of what was on it! The results of my revenge test demonstrate this. Reinforce it! (This is what my revenge test does)

  8. Make the students teach. Every teacher and tutor I’ve asked has stated that teaching is the best way to learn and yet to the best of my knowledge I’m the only tutor that makes my students prepare lessons to teach me.

  9. Create a “mental model/system” for learning. When a person looks at a string of computer code it's completely meaningless, but to a programmer they instantly know what is of value and what isn’t and how to manipulate the code to accomplish specific tasks. I accomplish this by having students identify which topic a question falls under before even beginning the question. This puts them in the correct “mental mode” to solve the question.

  10. Be charismatic. A student needs to be completely comfortable in your presence to achieve maximum results. Smile, be welcoming. Don’t sit directly beside the student early on. Don’t lean over their shoulder to watch them work. These are all classic tutor behaviors that make students uncomfortable.

I could certainly go into more depth on all of these but that would approach the length of a novel rather than a blog post. Needless to say these are the fundamentals I keep in mind to ensure I'm being the best tutor possible.

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