The #1 Back-to-School Item That Isn’t On Your Checklist, But Should Be

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back to school

Here we are, in the middle of August, and for a lot of students, the school year has already begun. Families are rushing around, purchasing school supplies, wrapping up those last few summer projects, and booking their students’ academic tutors, right? Unfortunately, amidst the hustle and bustle this time of year brings, the last thing on most parents’ minds is the first round of report cards coming out. Often times, families will wait until progress reports come to make the decision to find a tutor. At that point, their student has likely already fallen behind in class, and their grades and confidence have both taken a hit. While it is definitely possible to troubleshoot and course-correct in these situations, wouldn’t it be great to know the EXACT moment when things started going downhill, saving both time and money in the long-run? Luckily, there are some warning signs parents can be aware of AND some best practices to take when selecting and working with an academic tutor.

What are some warning signs I should look for in my student?

The best person to tell you that your student is struggling is your student! If they are nervous about an assignment or upcoming exam, I encourage you to take the time to ask questions and see if it is more than a round of test-anxiety. If it is a subject they have had trouble with in the past, it might be worth hiring a tutor to help build your student’s confidence back up. If they take a little longer to do their homework than necessary, or if it becomes a point of conflict within the family, I recommend hiring a tutor, even for the peace of mind that comes from separating “church and state.” The confidence that comes from a little bit of academic support can be a real game-changer in your child’s educational future, and giving your child an outlet for their learning frustrations can really help to improve the dynamics at home. At the end of the day, it never hurts to ask the question, and many tutors offer a free or low-cost consultation to see if their services are indeed necessary.

What is a tutor, and why should I pay someone to do something my student’s school should already be providing? 

Let me start off by saying that I love teachers! I am so in awe of the sacrifices they make for their classrooms and the lengths they go to for their students. Having worked in school settings in the past, I can attest to the challenges that come from these environments. Even the best of teachers are held to a schedule, and this pace can make it difficult to meet everyone’s needs. With teacher-student ratios climbing past 1:25, it can be challenging to meet the individual needs of all learners present. For this reason, all learners can benefit from an educational plan that is personally catered to their needs.

Academic tutors provide educational assistance to learners and their families, acting as an advocate for the student’s needs and a support system in their instructional development. A good tutor will take the time to access the families’ needs, build a trusting relationship with their students, and help bridge any gaps present between the teacher’s lessons and the students’ apprehension.

girl with tutor

What does a “good” tutor look like, and where can I find one?

There are many things to consider when selecting a tutor, and it is important to weigh all of the options before making a decision. Factors such as qualifications, experience, personality, etc. will all play a huge role in the success of this partnership. Before asking what a “good” tutor is, however, I encourage families to determine what “good” looks like for you and your learner. If you are merely looking for homework help and the occasional troubleshooting assistance, it might be appropriate to find an older student to help your learner with their work. For more advanced subjects, or if your child has any unique learning challenges, it might be best to look for a more experienced, qualified tutor to work with your student. Overall, though, here are some questions I would encourage you to ask when determining if the tutor is a good fit for you and your family:

Does the tutor engage and build confidence in my student?

Has the tutor worked with students similar to mine and do they have references available?

Does the tutor conduct themselves in a professional manner?

Do the services they offer align with the needs of my student and our family?

At the end of the day, you could find a college student with no prior experience that ends up being a better fit than a tenured professor with twenty years of teaching experience. Regardless of their stats, qualifications, or price, a good tutor will increase your student’s confidence, thoroughly communicate with you regarding your learner’s progress, and will help promote a love of learning within their pupils.

boy with tutor

How much should I expect to pay for a tutor?

Just like more qualifications does not always guarantee a better fit, a more expensive program does not always mean a better product!

I have seen families have success with programs such as Kumon, Sylvan, etc, while others prefer private sessions with independent contractors. Group-style programs, like those offered by Sylvan and Kumon, have the benefit of a more structured, classroom-like setting. These programs may be beneficial for those who learn best in a group environment and often have monthly/weekly rates, which may be a cheaper hourly option for families that choose this route.

For one-on-one sessions, it really goes back to what services you are looking to receive. If you are merely wanting someone for homework accountability, there are are individuals charging as low as ten dollars ($10) per hour. If you would like a more structured, instructional time for your student, or if you would like them to communicate with teachers regarding your student’s progress, you might expect to pay anywhere from twenty-five to eighty dollars ($25-$80) per hour, depending on the tutor’s individual experience and services offered.

In a nutshell…

When done correctly, finding the right tutor can be a bit of a lengthy process, which is why it is recommended that families start looking well before their student begins to struggle. Between new student orientations, soccer try-outs, and last minute runs for neon construction paper, I encourage you to take a minute to assess the learners in your life, and consider how a tutor will better support them on their academic journey.

About the Author:

Megan Christley graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Memphis in 2015, earning a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish. Currently, she is working as an independent contractor, tutoring and consulting being only a few of the many services she provides. Outside of work, Megan enjoys fitness, traveling, volunteering, and serving her church family, specifically in the youth & family ministry. Although she is a middle Tennessee transplant, Megan has called Memphis her home for over eight years, and enjoys the community and culture it provides.