Parents seek out the services of a tutor for a variety of reasons. Extra tutoring may be prompted by difficulty with a specific subject, competition for school placements, a recommendation by the classroom teacher, or simply an inability for busy parents to schedule sufficient learning reinforcement at home.
In order to deliver the best results, parents should be clear about their goals. Those who wish to encourage engagement with a particular subject may choose a tutor who emphasizes fun and play, whereas exam-focused students will benefit from a similarly results-oriented tutor. A tutor who focuses on helping a student to catch up may be very different from one geared toward academic competition.
However, whatever the individual motive behind extra tutoring, some end goals remain constant: improving confidence, developing proficiency, and delivering academic results.
Tutoring can represent a significant investment for parents in both time and money. The tutoring industry is experiencing world-wide growth, especially across Asia. Extra tutoring is often viewed as an obligatory performance enhancer; however parents need to exercise caution. Hiring a tutor can sometimes be a knee-jerk reaction to study patterns within the child’s peer group, and a kind of “keeping up with the Joneses” can take hold. Over-tutoring can result in detrimental effects to a child’s socialization, and result in a self-image centered purely on academic excellence. In addition, too much tuition can be totally counter-productive; children can become burnt-out and turned off from the very goals their parents have set for them.
Where to Find a Tutor
The four methods for finding a tutor are:
- Through a program at the child’s school
- On the recommendation of a parent or teacher
- By contacting a tuition agency
- By responding directly to a private tutor’s advert
What to Look For
a) Qualifications and experience
Do your homework! Make sure you are satisfied with both the tutor’s qualifications and experience. Ideally, the tutor should be a qualified teacher and have ample experience teaching children in the same age range as your child. Preferably, the tutor should have experience not just teaching, but tutoring specifically. Classroom instruction and one-to-one teaching can involve different skills. Regardless of how you find your tutor, they should be able to provide you with evidence of their qualifications.
There are plenty of unqualified tutors in Beijing, especially in the spoken English arena. Many of them may be gifted teachers, but if a tutor is unqualified, you should investigate their experience and references more thoroughly. An upcoming post will specifically look at vetting and choosing English tutoring services in greater detail.
b) Criminal background check
A criminal background check was not a prerequisite for receiving a teacher’s work visa in China up until July 1this year, although many schools were independently performing their own checks before signing contracts. The change in the law means that all would-be-teachers entering China after July 1 with the correct paperwork must have a clean criminal record.
Teachers transferring within China will also be required to submit a criminal background report. However, teachers who entered China before July 1, if they stay in their current province, will not be required to undergo a criminal background check. Parents may wish to consider asking potential tutors to see a copy of their criminal background check.
Even if the tutor comes recommended, it’s a good idea to ask for references. If possible, talk to a variety of other parents about their experience. This is a good opportunity to gain information not just on that particular tutor, but also on tutoring in general – particularly its potential pitfalls and advantages. You might also quiz the prospective tutor about particular success stories with previous students, and ask to speak to those parents specifically.
d) Teaching style
Some children respond best to repetition, some to movement and play, some to listening and music, and others to reading and writing. Classroom teachers cater to multiple individual learning styles by covering all the bases, but molding their predominant style around what works best for the overall group. A private tutor has the freedom to tailor their interactions and content to maximize your child’s learning. Before hiring a tutor, talk to them about how they adapt their style to each student to provide the best learning experience possible. You should be watching out for signs that the tutor is passionate about teaching and flexible in their approach.
e) Lesson planning
Every tutor should have a plan to find, categorize, and correct weaknesses in your child’s work. Talk to them about the techniques they employ. If you have explicit goals in mind (for example, obtaining a scholarship), discuss these with the tutor and have them provide you with a strategy and timeline for achieving your objectives.
This is the first in a series of blog posts outlining various aspects of tutoring, with particular emphasis on the services available in Beijing. The series is intended as an aid to parents in weighing up pros and cons, and steering a steady course through the various options available. Future posts will cover topics such as SAT and GMAT prep, look at tutoring for specific subjects, and ask broader questions about the tutoring industry in general.
Photo by JoshBerglund19 flickr