5 Steps to Managing a Successful Tutoring Program

The goal of working with a tutor is to shed anxiety and stress at home. Ideally you can finally have a civil conversation at the dinner table because your son has started bringing home A’s in geometry and your daughter is no longer putting off her History and Honors English papers to the last minute. So why, even with the tutor you’ve found, is this image more likely to appear in a Norman Rockwell painting than in your own home?

Once you’ve found a tutor the work begins. Your child, of course, feels the work—someone besides you is now holding them accountable—and, if your tutor has other priorities, you’ll feel the work, too. My main goal for every Revolution Family is that their stress goes down once they start, and then continuously while working with their tutor.

Once you’ve found the perfect tutor, follow these 5 steps from the beginning to ensure you’re lowering your stress and that your child has success.

1. Set goals and expectations up front

From the outset, your tutor should provide you with a plan that includes: quantitative and qualitative goals along set timelines. You should also be able to see clear metrics for success. Whether you’re looking at a few weeks, a semester, or a year-long academic plan, there need to be defined milestones and clear action steps.

Your child’s work with their tutor needs to stay focused. If your child has a C in history, is that from misunderstanding, disinterest, disorganization, or some combination of the three? Goals need to reflect the issues. This is essential to working proactively and removing the need for the tutor; without those clear goals, your tutor is just being reactive and not addressing core issues.

2. Sit in on the first session

Key things to listen for: how does the tutor set up the goal-setting conversation? What questions do they ask of the student and how do they ask follow-up questions? (Good follow-ups I used as a tutor were: “Tell me more about that” and “Explain what you mean”.) How does the tutor offer his/her input and how does the tutor wrap up goal-setting? (Did they summarize, draw conclusions, and offer next steps or action items?)

Revolution Families often request that we record and send them the first session and we are happy to do this. This is the beauty of hosting sessions online and we find it’s a far less intrusive way for you to see what is happening in the session. While I discourage families from sitting in on future sessions, knowing how the first session went is incredibly important to learn how your child feels about their tutor.

3. Interview your student after the first few sessions

Key questions to ask include: How did you feel when you finished today’s session? Tell me about something you learned today. The goal of these questions is to listen for the rapport a tutor is building. While it may be odd to flat-out ask if a student trusts and likes their tutor, you know your child best and you’ll hear cues of how good a match their tutor is. The first session is incredibly important for building this rapport and that relationship will matter for all future sessions. Tutoring sessions need to be a safe space in which your child feels comfortable making mistakes, is challenged and held accountable, and has a cheerleader. That all comes back to the rapport built in the first session.

Going forward, continue asking questions to understand how the tutor reacts when your child doesn’t understand something. This question lets you spot red flags: the way a tutor approaches concept gaps and misunderstandings shows if they’ll end up being a crutch for your student. It is also very telling about their mindset to learning (whether fixed or growth). This is something to watch through future sessions, as well.

4. Ask for a written report after each session

Key questions to address include: What was the focus of the session? What was accomplished? What challenges or obstacles were encountered? What goal-related results/milestones were achieved? We have consistently heard feedback from our families that the parent updates they receive from our tutors provide an avenue for the parents to have conversations with their kids about the work they are doing in school and with their tutor.

For busy parents, this is a great way for you to be on the same page as your child in school, to be aware of any challenges, and to advocate for them as needed. This puts you on your child’s team when it comes to schoolwork, often a tough place to be as a parent. Make sure you are getting this important information from your tutor after each session or, at the very least, on a weekly basis.

5. Hold scheduled check-ins

Aim to check in after every 10 hours of tutoring. The Advisors on my team speak to tutors weekly about their students, and will check in with their families every 4 to 6 weeks. If you have your own tutor, this is equally important. It should not be something that the tutor charges you for but something they include as part of the program. This is your parent teacher conference or performance review of the past few weeks. What is your child doing well; are there any concerns arising? And, most importantly, how can you help your child and their tutor?

Parents I know often assume that just hiring a tutor will solve their problems. Yes, it’s a step in the right direction, but everyone needs to be held accountable. Just as the tutor you bring in holds your child accountable, you or someone needs to help hold the tutor accountable.

With these 5 steps, you’re better set up to manage a tutoring program successfully.

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