Choosing the right tutor is of the utmost importance when getting tutoring help. You could spend hours and hours and more and more money, but still not feel like you got any good help.
Once you find someone, the first step is to do a background check. If the student is a minor (and possibly if they’re not) you will ask to see the tutor’s police check – and request they get one if they don’t have one before starting sessions- this should be a deal breaker if they won’t provide one. Check out their website if they have one, ask to speak to past students (in your subject area) and talk to them on the phone about what they offer and their experience (this also gives indication of their communication skills). Find out their educational and work background – you may want to reference these as well. You really want to have a thorough background check, especially if the student is a minor, has special needs, has a learning disability, or if the tutor is charging a high rate. You can always set up a meeting to talk to the tutor in person and ask them questions – before committing to a session. Some tutors will even offer a free sample session or like I do – a guarantee on the first session – meaning you don’t pay at the end of the session if you’re not satisfied.
For elementary and secondary students, there are often tutoring or study centers in your area. Some centers are more like daycare where your child works on their homework, others have real tutoring help or even teaching as part of the session. You would want to visit the center and stand back while you watch how the teacher/tutor interacts with the students. You would also want to request a sample session for your child before committing to a length of time or number of sessions. You will often have to pay for that sample session. After the session take your child home and ask them there how they liked the session and what they learned – actually check what work they did and try to find out the types of questions they asked or things they were told. Also be cautious of tutoring centers that charge really high fees because “they have the best tutors”. I was asked to work for a tutoring agency in Toronto that charged parents $65/hour for their elementary and secondary students to get one-on-one help – but they only paid the tutors $15/hour. Well I’m sure the best tutors would not be working there – because they could get paid a lot more working for themselves. Of course, I chose not to work there, as I charged $45/hour for my help to that age of student.
Finally, make sure they know what they are saying they know. You should ask them to solve a few questions that you know the answer to. If they have to search through your textbook too much and have difficulty answering (or some just confidently give you an incorrect answer) – you will know they are not a good tutor. Also ask them to explain some concepts you don’t quite understand, and see if you do understand them afterwards. You will get a good idea of how they teach and if it works for your style of learning. Stop and ask them to explain the answer in a different way – some tutors have great difficulty doing this – but the good ones know how to explain something many different ways until you get it. Also – it is best if you tell the tutor your learning style –and what you would like to get out of the sessions. This gives the tutor a fair chance to adjust their teaching and format of the session to your needs – so you can get a real idea of what they’re capable of. It’s really important that you as the student or you as a parent encourage your child to give good, honest feedback (such as “I really still don’t get it – please explain it a different way” or “I really like it when you use a graph to explain” or “It’s better if we do practice problems rather than have you just explain it”). It’s not fair to you or the tutor if you sit quietly through a session nodding your head without being involved and interactive.