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How to get the most out of tutoring

Once you hire a tutor, you may be relieved to step aside and let an experienced professional help your child. But don’t step so far out of the way that you lose sight of whether or not the tutor you hired is effective.

Set up a system for communication at the outset so you can stay aware of your child’s progress and obstacles. Here are a few steps to take to make sure you maintain quality, effective tutoring for your child.

Communicate regularly with your tutor

  • As soon as you offer your tutor or teacher the job, plan how you will regularly stay in touch about your child’s progress. Set up a regular time to talk, either right after each session, or soon afterward.
  • Suggest using a tutoring lessons checklist for you to keep track of your child’s progress.
  • Listen carefully to any reports your tutor gives you without jumping in and defending your child. A good tutor can pinpoint your child’s learning obstacles and make suggestions about what techniques or exercises can help.
  • Make your child’s tutor aware of any outside issues that could be impacting your child’s studies, such as a recent death in the family, divorce or other hardships.

Evaluate your tutor and the sessions

  • Try to unobtrusively listen in to a session or two to get your own sense of how the lessons are going. If you’re at home, quietly fold laundry or sort mail in the next room. If you’re at a library or another location, sit nearby with a book or magazine that doesn’t completely absorb your attention.
  • Ask your child for feedback, but realize that not all comments may be relevant. Understand that children cannot always articulate criticism effectively, especially depending on their age and level of development. Complaints that the tutor is boring or mean may translate to “I’m tired” or “I’m confused or anxious” or even “I’m not sure I like this person.” It can be difficult to sort through this type of feedback. But, you know your child. Reassure them that the tutor is there to help and that you’re there to make it go smoothly but that if they aren’t comfortable with the tutor, you can look for another one.
  • If difficulties continue, you need to speak to the tutor. Don’t let your child carry the entire burden of evaluating a professional. In many successful tutoring relationships, the child and tutor can become great friends. This is a relationship that may become very special for your child. Nurture it, yet be aware of its progress or lack thereof, too.
  • Set clearly defined goals for your child, such as being able to graph equations in math or consistently scoring above a certain level on sample SAT tests. Periodically ask the tutor if goals are realistic or need to be revised. There are many different kinds of tutors: they may provide enrichment or test preparation, help when a child has fallen behind or present new learning strategies for kids who have difficulties with traditional classroom methods. Set goals that are specific to your tutoring situation. Ask the tutor how they measure progress.
  • If you are not pleased with your child’s progress, discuss with the tutor any modifications that can be made to the lessons or consider hiring a new tutor.

Involve your child’s teacher

  • Let your child’s regular teacher know that you have hired a tutor to help with a specific subject or learning problem. Ask whether the teacher can share any information about your child that can help the tutor or if the teacher can let you know if the tutoring sessions are working.
  • If the teacher is willing, ask that she and the tutor speak directly to one another, or plan a three-way conversation by phone or email so that everyone understands and can work toward the same learning goals.