10 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Tutor
When your child needs a tutor, you want to find an experienced tutor with subject expertise. You also want someone with whom your child will be comfortable and compatible. Here are some tips for interviewing potential tutors for your child.
- What subject areas are your specialties?
Teachers and tutors, like all people, have strengths and relative weaknesses. While a teacher in the primary grades teaches all academic subjects, a more specialized tutor might be needed for a struggling student. Seek out a reading specialist or an upper grades math teacher if your child has challenges in just one area. College students can be good tutors as well–contact a local university education school or math department and ask them for recommendations.
- Can you teach my child organizational skills?
If your child’s issues are not with knowledge, but rather with organization and focus, you want to look for a tutor who works with attention problems and executive (organizational) skills. They may use mind mapping and a variety of organizational tools to help your child succeed. A school counselor or an experienced teacher may be able to recommend just the right tutor.
- Could you provide references?
You want ideally to see a professional reference (from a colleague or professor) and one or more customer references from satisfied parents and students. Great tutors tend to leave a trail of evidence behind them.
- Would you summarize your teaching and tutoring experience?
A tutor need not be a licensed public school teacher with decades of experience. A tutor must, however, be experienced working with children your child’s age and thus able to observe how your child thinks and works. For example, an experienced teacher will be able to quickly tell if your child is an auditory or visual learner or needs hands-on demonstration to grasp concepts.
- How will you evaluate my child’s needs?
Tutors need to know the scope and sequence of their subject area and know where students most often have problems. Sometimes diagnostic tests may be administered to pinpoint the gaps in a student’s understanding. The seasoned tutor will also plan for filling in those gaps.
- Have you used “fill-in-the-name” curriculum?
It is helpful if your tutor is familiar with whatever subject curriculum is used in your child’s school (or your home school.) Sometimes the curriculum is not a great fit for your child and the tutor will be able to supplement with another teaching approach.
- What is your experience teaching students with Asperger’s/dyslexia/visual impairment/other?
Students with special needs such as those on the autism spectrum or those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia need a tutor who is experienced with those special needs. Intellectually gifted students may need a tutor for supplemental instruction in areas of strength or for remediation in areas of weakness–not all gifted students are universally gifted.
- What is your personal learning style? Can you teach those with other styles?
There is much in the educational literature about children’s learning styles. One basic model divides children into three categories: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Everyone is a blend, but some children (and some teachers) are heavily biased toward one style. If your child is visual, like many artists and engineers, a teacher who is highly auditory (lecture-based) might not get through to them as well as a tutor who can incorporate graphs, charts, and timelines into lessons. Likewise some students with math struggles will suddenly understand concepts when they can use manipulatives such as coins and blocks.
- How do you handle an exuberant (high-spirited) student or a shy student?
Personality match is also something to consider. If your child is especially exuberant or shy, mention that to a potential tutor. Some tutors revel with a spirited child, while others are quiet and calm, perfect for a shy child who is not thrilled about meeting a new teacher.
- What are your hourly rates?
Most people do not enjoy talking about money, but it is important to have reasonable expectations. When you do select a tutor, be sure to agree to a schedule for tutoring sessions and a plan for payment, e.g. once a month or at the beginning of every session.
You need not be a teacher to recognize a good tutor. You do, however, need to know your child well and collect information from potential tutors in order to find a good match. Be sure to get feedback from your child, the tutor, and the student’s classroom teacher. Everyone is part of the team that will help your student reach his/her potential.