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Qualities of a successful tutor


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Building a strong rapport with the student

Building an atmosphere of trust and respect is key to the tutor/tutee relationship. A student who trusts and respects his tutor and his tutor’s abilities is happy and relaxed.  And feeling happy and relaxed are key ingredients to successful learning.

Empathy

Successful tutors are able to put themselves in their students’ shoes.  Not all students find learning easy.  Shakespearean language, Latin verbs or quadratic equations are a doddle if you have specialised in this area and studied your subject to undergraduate level and beyond.  It is easy to forget that a child may find these concepts much harder to grasp.  So a tutor needs to find out the best way in which to communicate their knowledge to each individual child.

Understanding students’ individual learning styles

Everybody learns differently.  Put simply, most people are a mixture of auditory, visual or kinaesthetic (learning through action) learners.  The child who finds it difficult to sit still in a classroom environment may be predominantly a kinaesthetic learner, who would benefit from learning through physical action as opposed to sitting passively and listening to the teacher.  This a very simple method and a good tutor will use this as just one of the methods to inform their tuition.

Engaging students’ interests

A good tutor finds out what makes his or her student’s heart sing.  If this happens to be computer gaming, he or she is likely to be more fired up in an English tutorial if their tutor uses well-written articles and visuals on computer gaming to illustrate comprehension and grammar skills.   A dreary article from the Times on current politics may well send your computer gaming fan into the depths of despair.  The more the student’s interests are engaged, the more they care about what they are learning.

In-depth subject knowledge and the ability to relate this to real life 

Successful tutors engage students more fully if they can make their subject come alive.  The successful tutor does not always rely on abstract assignments or set vocabulary for the student to learn by rote.  By turning assignments into project-based activities and providing opportunities to relate these to real-life situations, the tutor is able to demonstrate the value of the subject outside the classroom.

Flexibility 

The successful tutor is prepared for each tutorial, but he also has to be prepared to change the content at the drop of a hat.  You may come to the tutorial armed with all sorts of fun exercises and songs on French irregular verbs, only to find your tutee in floods of tears over her impending oral exam the following morning.  So you have to be prepared to switch and be in tune with your student’s needs.

Communication with parents and teachers

The successful tutor communicates clearly and frequently with all key adults involved in the student’s learning.  Drawing up a study plan, with clear timescales and academic goals is vital.  It is equally important that this plan is reviewed at regular intervals and changes are made where necessary.  

Having used tutors for all my children, at various stages in their lives, I have found that those who took the time to find out what really motivated them and made them tick, were the most successful in helping them achieve their goals.

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