Making the Most of Tutoring Sessions

Professional, individual, private education comprises considerable investment of time and money. It is helpful to remember that this is in fact an investment, not simply a use of time or a financial expense. What you put into it will pay dividends in the short and/or long run. Certain steps can help you get the greatest benefit from tutoring relationships.

All too often, students arrive at tutoring ill-prepared to use the time wisely because they have not given adequate forethought to the meeting. While our message to many parents would be that they should refrain from micromanaging their children’s organization (thus preventing them from learning to do it themselves), in many cases we feel parents could do more to help students be prepared.

  • Does your son need a reminder from you to review his assignments and the materials he might need from the classroom or locker before you drive him home from school?
  • Would it be effective in your household to ask your daughter what she plans to do when she gets to tutoring before you leave the house? Most students—not all—should be prepared with a plan for their time before they arrive.
  • How about a family calendar review on Sunday evening in which you map out the week’s commitments? This might include noting when tutoring falls and planting a seed about that time might best be used.
  • Some students need to be encouraged to start a task before going to tutoring in order to identify the parts in which she or will most need help. In other cases, it is wise to discourage this, such as in the case of a student who is inclined to go down the wrong path on a writing assignment on his own and who will then resist changing that direction with the tutor because of all he has done.
  • Making time to clean out backpacks and binders at home can go a long way to more effective tutoring. Some families will find, though, that this seemingly mundane task can best be accomplished directly with the tutor, who can often do this with fewer arguments and more of an eye to productive strategies. This also can allow a tutor to see past work samples that students are otherwise loathe to share.

Repeatedly, we find students and families who get in a routine with their tutor based on the initial referring concern then lose sight of what other role the tutor can play as needs evolve. For example, perhaps you engaged a tutor for math concerns and focused heavily on math homework or remediation. That tutor may become cast as “the math tutor” though he may well be able to provide excellent support for test preparation for this week’s major history test or on an English research project. You might be surprised at how often we find parents adding a second tutor when a single tutor might have been able to do both jobs with greater flexibility. Talk with your tutor about how he or she can help in a broader scope.

Sometimes, an extra session or two can go a long way.

  • Some, not all, tutors are willing to make extra time available on a limited basis at times they might not normally. For example, at exam time, both tutor and student may agree that a weekend session would be helpful. There may be an additional charge for weekends or late evening sessions.
  • Would it be useful to have a lengthy daytime tutoring session on a school holiday that might allow a student to make great headway on a long-term project?
  • Rather than add a second or third regular tutoring slot, if your child needs a boost, ask the tutor to put you on an on-call basis to possibly fill in someone’s cancellation. It’s not good to depend on this as it is often hard to make schedules mesh or even to reach each other, but it can be great to take advantage of it from time to time.
  • If you are just starting with a new tutor, it can be helpful to schedule extra sessions in the initial week or weeks. This “jump start” can help build rapport faster, provide a faster learning curve regarding the student’s needs and the strategies that she finds effective, and generate enthusiasm from a series of quicker successes.

    Mark Carey
    Fall 2008
© Mark A. Carey, M.A., and Kaulele Education Services, Inc. 2010