1. What do you charge? Fees can range anywhere from $15-$75/hour. Usually at the lower end of the scale are people without degrees or teaching credentials. They could also be high school or college students looking to earn some additional income. Depending on their academic knowledge and their ability to explain things, these less expensive tutors may or may not be a good match for your child. At the upper end of the scale are people with advanced degrees (Masters and Doctorates) as well as college professors. Again, just because they look good on paper and charge a lot of money doesn’t mean they are the best tutors. What you are looking for is someone your child can relate to and understand, someone who explains things in different ways until your child “gets it.” Feel lucky if you can find a certified teacher who has a good rapport with your child that charges anywhere between $20-$40/hour.
2. What is the length of a session, and how often should the student meet with you? To be the most effective, tutors should meet with students 2-3 times a week. Sessions can range from 1/2 hour to 2 hours, depending on the age of your child. Very young children have short attention spans and should meet more often but for shorter periods of time. High school students can focus for up to two hours if the tutor varies the activities and keeps the discussions lively. Even if students are attending 2 hour sessions, they should still meet with a tutor at least twice a week. By only meeting once a week, students are not able to get enough feedback about the material they are covering and do not have the consistency they need to succeed in their problem areas.
3. How long have you been tutoring? Tutors who have at least one year of experience have had time to work out the kinks in their systems. That’s not to say that tutors just starting out won’t be excellent teachers for your student, especially if they have previous experience as teachers. However, novice tutors probably haven’t worked out their billing system or their cancellation policy or other types of business matters. They may not have as many resources available to them as tutors who have been in business longer. Conversely, just because a tutor has 20 years of experience doesn’t mean he/she will be a good match for your child. Sometimes older tutors get set in their ways and have difficulty adjusting their system to new material or children with problems focusing. Making sure your student gets along with the tutor is one of the most important factors in ensuring the relationship is a successful one.
4. Are you a certified teacher? Certified teachers have had to pass minimum competency exams in their areas of expertise. So you can be sure that a certified teacher has a certain basic knowledge of educational concepts and at least some level of proficiency in his/her subject areas. Generally teachers are either certified as elementary (covering grades K-8) or secondary (covering grades 6-12). As you can see, the certifications overlap at grades 6-8, the middle school years. So teachers with either elementary or secondary certifications would be qualified to tutor these grade levels. Depending on the age of your child, you want to try to get a teacher with the appropriate certification. That’s not to say a teacher with a secondary certification can’t help an elementary student or vice versa. It’s just that teachers with an elementary certification have had specialized training dealing with younger children whereas teachers with a secondary certification have had more opportunity to focus on more difficult subject matter.
5. How do you handle kids with learning problems like ADHD and dyslexia? Teachers should be aware that students with learning difficulties often require different strategies than students who have not been diagnosed with these challenges. Tutors should be able to outline some of their specific strategies for helping your child based on what his/her problem happens to be. For example, what do they do when your ADHD daughter just can’t seem to focus? What kind of approach would they take with helping your dyslexic son learn to read? You need to make sure that tutors are sensitive to these types of learning issues and have strategies in place to deal with them. One of the qualities that all tutors require is patience, so it would be beneficial to you to observe a tutoring session to see for yourself how patient the tutor is with your student. If the tutor does not allow parents to watch a session, perhaps they would allow you to tape or video record a session, so that it is less distracting for your child. Also, get feedback from your children as to how helpful the tutor is. Don’t continue with a tutor who your child does not like and is not enthusiastic about seeing.
6. What is your area of expertise? Different tutors will have different strengths and weaknesses. Just ask the tutor what they feel comfortable teaching. Your high school sophomore might need help in Geometry, Chemistry, and Spanish. But it is unlikely you will find a tutor who is able to teach all 3 of these subjects. Often someone good with Math with also be good in Science, and someone good in English will also be good with a foreign language. But you might also find that someone with an English degree is also excellent with first year Algebra. You just never know. So you should find out what the tutor’s credentials are and how much experience they have teaching the various subjects your student needs help with. Then make an informed decision about whether the tutor is qualified to help your student with the subject. High school students may need to see more than one tutor in order to get all their questions answered for each subject area.
7. What age student do you like to work with? Many teachers have definite preferences about what age student they like to work with. Some just enjoy helping younger students because they like the enthusiasm and energy little ones have. Also, many tutors feel that certain upper-level material is over their heads and feel more comfortable working with easier subject matter. On the other hand, some tutors prefer working with older students because they relate to teenagers better and haven’t had the training necessary to be able to relate to smaller children. Of course there are some extra special teachers who can effectively work with students of any age. So just find out what age student the tutor feels comfortable with and make sure that matches the age of your child.
8. Do you have any references? Tutors who have been working for at least a year should be able to provide you with the names and phone numbers of other clients who are happy with their services. If tutors are just starting out, they may not have names of any past clients, but they should be able to give you the names of former employers, teachers, or friends who can vouch for their character. If any of the references you contact seem the least bit unsure about whether the tutor is good with kids, then you should look elsewhere for help. If a person is willing to give you references, then they should be good references that inspire confidence in the tutor’s ability to teach your child.
9. Where do you tutor? Find out if a tutor prefers to 英文補習 work at his/her home, your home, or a neutral location like a library. Many tutors like to work at their own home. First of all, it is more efficient for them. They can line up clients back-to-back and not lose any time on the road or be caught out if their tutoring student cancels on them. Tutors also find it easier to have all their supplies and materials on hand without having to tote them around and possibly forget something they will need to effectively teach the student. If tutors use their own home, make sure that they are working at a well lit place conducive to studying with no distractions. Also, make sure you feel comfortable leaving your son or daughter alone with them. If not, ask the tutor to let you stay in a nearby room during the tutoring session. Other tutors will travel to your home. Expect to pay an additional fee for this service, since the tutor will be out additional time and gas money to travel to you. For tutors who feel their home is not suitable for tutoring (because they have young children or live in a small apartment), they prefer to travel to their clients’ homes, and some of them will not charge any additional fee. Other tutors prefer a neutral location for tutoring like a library because they think it more conducive to studying, and it ensures the safety of both the tutor and the student.