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“Why do I need a tutor?” and Other Common Questions for First Time Tutoring

Students or parents of students getting a tutor for the first time can have a lot of questions starting out, and often have a lot of misinformation. I thought I would write a quick blog post to clear up these questions, and give the parents some information when discussing getting a tutor with their student.   

 “Why do I need a tutor?” 
Many students who are getting tutoring for the first time can feel discouraged and unsupported, but it is important to understand that getting tutoring is a privilege, and it can make a real difference. The most common reasons a parent might search for a tutor might be: 

  ♢      Lacking understanding. Everyone needs help once and a while, and not everyone can be good at every subject. Sometimes a student will reach a unit in a class, and they are just at a loss and don’t understand it. It is better to get help when you need it, than to continue being confused in the class. 
 ♢       Grades are slipping. Sometimes we get overwhelmed with all of our obligations outside of classes. Perhaps you play a sport and have practice every day, or you do volunteer work, or have a part-time job. It can be hard to manage keeping your grades up with all of these other responsibilities. 
 ♢       Lacking confidence. For some reason, you are doing fairly well in a course, but you just aren’t showing confidence your work. Perhaps you are unsure of each question you answer, and feel you are more guessing than answering. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to get a tutor to evaluate what you do know and reassure you that you are understanding the material correctly. 
 ♢       Lacking motivation. Perhaps you haven’t been turning in homework assignments, or you just aren’t paying much attention to your schoolwork in general. Not wanting to fill out workbooks or packets is understandable. They can be boring and annoying working through them on your own, but a tutor might be able to make the topic more interesting for you and help you find ways to remember interesting facts. If you find a tutor who is excited about the subject, often they can make the experience pretty enjoyable. 
 ♢       Learning disability. Traditional teaching methods don’t always work for those with learning disabilities, which means traditional lectures won’t teach you much. A one-on-one session with a tutor can give you a more personalized learning experience, where they play to your strengths so you can learn by the best methods possible.  

 “What type of students get Tutors?” Debunking the myths 
This is a question I come across quite frequently, especially with students getting a tutor for the first time. For some reason, many young students have it in their head that if they are getting a tutor it must mean they are ‘stupid’. I have heard the sentence “Only dumb kids get tutoring” much too many times, and it is something that makes me sad to hear. The truth is, the majority of students who get tutors tend to have a few key qualities: 

 ♢        They are generally very good students. They make above-average grades, and are very smart. They complete most of their homework assignments, and tend to put a good amount of effort into their classes. Even more so, these students tend to care about what grades they make, and tend to work harder when they don’t feel they are doing well. 
 ♢        They have parents and/or instructors who are very involved and invested in their education. The parents who put an emphasis on their students’ education are more likely to get their students a tutor. Similarly a teacher who is engaged with their classes will notice when a student is struggling. They are familiar with the student’s work 
 ♢        They are college-bound. Most students who end up getting tutoring are planning on furthering their education after high school. I can say that 95% of my clients are already planning on college, and it is listed on one of their main reasons for getting a tutor.  

 “Why do most students get tutoring?” 

1.       Their grades are dropping. Whether it be missing school due to illness, extracurriculars taking away focus from a class, or if a subject is just particularly difficult, the student’s grade is showing an unusual trend. Perhaps they just “bombed” a test when they felt they had done well. 
2.       They don’t feel as confident as they want to in the material. For certain students, there is a disconnect for them with a certain subject. Perhaps they excel in History and English, but they can’t grasp concepts as easily in Algebra class. Getting a tutor can often help close this gap in understanding, and give the student tools to use in later courses. 
3.       Test Anxiety - They get overwhelmed with tests. Reviewing for any class is not easy for everyone. Study skills come to everyone differently, and they are a learned skill. For some with test anxiety, it is much more difficult to decide how and what to study when it comes to tests. Students today have more pressure on them to perform than ever before, and this is usually more of a hindrance than an advantage. Not every student can perform well under pressure, and with so many teachers having strict retesting policies, it is no wonder this pressure can get to a student’s head. 
4.       They are trying to get into college. Many students will realized they want to go to a certain school in their junior or senior year, and will want to bring their grades up in order to have better chances of acceptance.
5.       They are about to leave for college. Colleges expect a certain standard for their students, even after they have been accepted to the university. Most colleges’ acceptance letters have a clause requiring students to keep up their grades through graduation, so a student can't let their grades fall at the last minute and put scholarships in jeopardy.
 6.       They have just started college. Moving away from one’s family and having all these responsibilities can be overwhelming for some students. They have to find a balance between a social life and school, and for the first time they make all the decisions regarding how they spend their time. As well, college is very different from high school, and some students need to learn how to study all over again, because their old habits are no longer working for them. A big life change like going to college is a lot to get used to, and getting tutoring can help lessen the load and reduce stress. 
 7.       Standardized testing. ACT and SAT scores are a huge factors when applying to your dream school. The tests are not designed to see how much you know, but how well you can test. Therefore, the most important thing is learning strategies on how to approach these tests from people who have a lot of experience with them. 
 8.       The dreaded Finals. Whoever decided there should be huge comprehensive exams in the same week clearly doesn’t stress easily. Meanwhile, many student can get overwhelmed when it comes time for finals. Not only do you have four or five tests in one week, but you also are required to remember all the material that you have covered for the entire year! Many students get tutors to help them review the older material they might be rusty on, and get help completing their review packets. In this way, they can get any questions they have answered and be able to study with ease.   

 ”How do I know which tutor is right for my student?”
The truth is, you will never know if a tutor is the right fit until you hire them and try them out, but I have a few tips for narrowing down the list: 

1.       A tutor who is knowledgeable/experienced in teaching the subject. Some subjects are harder to teach than others, and just because they understand it well doesn’t mean they can teach it well. If they have experience tutoring the subject before, then they will have a better understanding of what tools they can teach your student to give the best help possible.   
2.       A tutor who is friendly. It seems like a silly thing to say, but someone who makes your student feel comfortable, and who they can feel safe asking questions to, will make a huge difference in not only how well, but also how quickly they improve.   
3.       A tutor who is highly-recommended. A tutor with the best grades is not always the best choice. In fact, many tutors are better at it for having struggled at some time in school. For this reason, worrying about which tutor is the best Math student is not the best way to go, but the one who really gets the material across to the student is the path you should choose. 

 So for any parents out there who are struggling with deciding to get your student a tutor, go for it! If your student feels discouraged because they feel it means they are stupid, explain to them that only the best students get tutors when they are struggling. Students getting a tutor for the first time may feel self-conscious about it. 

This is one reason, among many other reasons which I have discussed in other blogs, that I use a positive tutoring approach with my students. Students should be taught to focus on what they do understand rather than what they don’t. This is also the psychological reasoning behind “partial-credit” tests—you are given credit for using the knowledge you do have instead of being penalized for not knowing everything. 

 It takes a lot of courage for a student to admit they may need help, so you should explain to him or her that you are proud of them for taking that step. They may be nervous for their first session, not knowing what to expect, but great tutors will really make them feel comfortable and enthusiastic about the process. It doesn't take long for students to relax and really appreciate the extra help a tutor can provide.  

For more information about finding the right tutor for you, check out my blog post: 8 Qualities of a Great Tutor, and as always, if you have any questions about finding a local tutor, call FrogTutoring using the number at the top of the page!
Brittany K
STEM Enthusiast, Experienced Tutor
Texas Christian University
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