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7 Things Tutors Should Never Do

Tiffany Smith
July 17, 2017

Avoid these mistakes during your tutoring job.

An effective tutor can mean the difference between failure and success for someone struggling to learn. Keep reading for a list of professional don'ts to avoid when grooming your pupils for success.
 

  1. Make Your Private Life Public
    While tutors are expected to privately oversee the academic progress of their pupils, its also important that certain social boundaries be in place. Avoid discussing deeply personal topics unless it is relevant to your subject matter. This will keep your professional relationship just that -- professional.

    All too often, when tutors create a friendship with students they start to slack off and take advantage of the friendship that has developed, says one-on-one career consultant and author Arthur Kaptein.

    Creating social media relationships with your pupil can also blur the professional lines of your relationship, and should be avoided when possible.

    If they follow you, that's one thing, says Kreigh Knerr, director of Milwaukee-based standardized testing tutoring facility Knerr Learning Center. Don't initiate social media interaction.
     
  2. Be Too Physical
    Everyone loves a good hug now and again, but unless your subject matter calls for it, then its best to keep physical interaction between you and your pupil to a minimum. Tickling, wrestling and other overt physical expressions should be avoided while on the job.

    There's a gray area surrounding high fives and fist bumps, but that should be the limit in a professional tutoring environment, says Knerr, adding that standing over your pupil can also create an uncomfortable situation.

    Sit next to your student rather than standing over them. Looming is weird and intimidating, adds Knerr.
     
  3. Arrive Underprepared
    A tardy tutor with a half-baked lesson plan can create the impression that he or she is uninterested in the job.

    Never come unprepared, says Brooke Lustig, director of online interactive tutoring service ePrepz.com. Tutoring is a job, and like any job tutoring requires preparation. Go over the current assignments beforehand and try to inspire the student to be prepared as well. If both parties are prepared it will be easier to learn.
     
  4. Lose Your Cool
    While you may feel like pulling your hair out in exasperation while tutoring, you should keep your emotions in check and avoid expressions of anger or frustration. Tutors should also avoid talking down to their pupils as this can undermine the learning process.

    A one-on-one environment is one of the few in which students can engage adults in real conversation, says Knerr. Let them take advantage of that.
     
  5. Be Inflexible
    Each person learns in a different way, so creating a one-size-fits-all lesson plan or approach to teaching should be avoided. While it may save you time, it can hinder your ability to recognize the specific learning challenges of each of your pupils.

    Students really notice when you personalize their lessons to them, says Kirsty Burton, a former British au pair, tutor and founder of ESL website Confident Living UK. It's important to consider learning styles, progress speed, specific priorities and interests.
     
  6. Go Too Fast
    Rushing through material simply to stay on schedule should also be avoided when tutoring, as it can further confuse pupils and create feelings of shame when concepts are not sufficiently absorbed.

    Many students avoid tutoring because they are intimidated and feel as if the tutor thinks they're dumb, says Lustig. Being patient and kind will help students feel comfortable and do better work.
     
  7. Over-promise
    If your student is barely passing Spanish, don't promise them that your tutoring will land them As for the rest of the semester. If he or she doesn't succeed, you'll look amateur, and your student could potentially feel cheated or hopeless.

    Even if your lessons do deliver As in Spanish, your students may start expecting the same results in every area, says Burton.

    You'll set the bar for the relationship, and your student or family will grow to expect this as the bare minimum, she says.
     

When done well, tutors have the ability to truly enrich the lives of the people they serve by building confidence and igniting curiosity and passion. Don't let bad habits undermine both your efforts and your pupils potential for success.

 

Tiffany Smith is the director of content and publicity at William Woods University. She has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And, as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Getting them to eat their veggies -- that’s a different story! Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite

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