Tips to become a better teacher
Whether you are a seasoned tutor or new to the world of tutoring, you will be well aware that each student is different, and what works for one doesn’t work for another. So the purpose of this blog post is to give you some tips on how to mix and match your tutoring.
1. Cater the lesson to the student’s learning sytle: Some learners are reflective; they like to thoroughly prepare before each tutoring session and prefer to have access to the material to be covered in class beforehand so they can go over it various times and feel confident in the subject you will be covering. Others may be the total opposite; they like to learn by doing. For instance, they might prefer to perform a chemical experiment in a laboratory, rather than swat for hours on the structure of molecules.
2. Keep it fresh: A lesson plan that may be interesting for two or three lessons will cease to be so once the novelty wears off. Surprise your student by introducing new activities in a class (e.g. games testing their maths skills, songs illustrating a theme or poem recently studied or a brand new app that encourages them to put what they have learned to practical use).
3. Take a look at innovative new ways of teaching: Read up on the latest developments in education; take the best from these new styles of teaching and use them in your tutoring sessions. One new method reporting great success is Spaced Learning. A typical class involves presenting students with a topic (usually via a 10-minute Powerpoint presentation) followed by a 10-minute break during which students perform a physical activity like playing a sport. After the action-packed phase, students watch the same Powerpoint presentation, this time with blanks they have to fill in. During a typical class, there are three ‘information input’ sessions divided by two ‘active’ 10-minute breaks. The system may be unfamiliar, but its proponents are claiming notable benefits from adopting it. Apparently, the secret lies in creating new connections in the brain which encourage memory retention.
Another new teaching method is called Engagement; it involves encouraging students to visit local businesses so they can see how the subjects they are learning apply to real life. There is no reason why you, as a tutor, cannot incorporate these systems into your tutoring sessions. Your interest in your student shouldn’t end as soon as the hour-long tutoring session is up.
4. Learn from alternative education methods: For some students, the newest is not necessarily the best. Check out tried-and-tested techniques such as the Steiner-Waldorf and Montessori methods, which still receive rave reviews from teachers and parents alike.
5. Be patient, be innovative: Some students are able to grasp concepts at a quicker pace than others. Don’t despair if you find that you have to repeat ideas you have already spent a considerable amount of time explaining. If you find that your students have problems retaining information, try to use memory retention techniques like mind maps, which take a visual approach to synthesising and memorising large quantities of information.
6. Be tech savvy: Most students nowadays have an almost intuitive relationship with technology; indeed, almost 100 per cent of UK youth own a mobile, tablet or iPod. Think of how you can incorporate these devices into your tutoring sessions. There are thousands of apps on almost every subject you can think of, from mathematics to science and even literature. Don’t spend the entire session on gadgetry, but do introduce them as a nice wrap-up to a productive class.
Technology can also be used outside tutoring sessions. There are many interactive apps and software solutions that enable you to comment on a student’s work as it progresses or make your own additions to their mind maps. When a student sees that their tutor’s interest in them extends beyond the official paid hour, they are much more likely to feel motivated to go ‘beyond the call of duty’ when it comes to learning.
7. Ask your student how you can improve: Sometimes, it pays to get to the point and end a tutoring class by asking your student how you feel you can make the class more beneficial to them. Some students will ask for more variety; others will tell you that you are going too fast and they need to spend more time on the basics. At this stage, you can also suggest ways you feel your student can make the most of what you are teaching them through additional projects they can complete in their own time.
8. Make it personal: You can probably recall a teacher that changed your life, inspired you to become more academic or gave you the gentle push you needed to make it into University or the course of your choice. What made this teacher so special was probably the personal interest they took in you; their gentle understanding of your circumstances, obstacles and goals. This teacher or tutor probably walked that extra mile to bring you a book you needed or told you how much they believed in in your ability. It is amazing how something as simple as a lack of confidence in one’s own skill and capacity can be a student’s greatest downfall.
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Try to be that source of inspiration for your student. Point out the areas you feel they really have talent in; if they express themselves well, encourage them to write, start their own blog or attempt to have their work published. Sometimes, something as simple as telling your student they are amazing is the only thing they need to reach for the stars.
I hope that you have found this blog post interesting, and would love you to share with us what you have found works for you, via the below comments box.
We have been blogging advice for tutors for a while now – our ‘Tips for Tutors’ series. Just in case you missed any, you can find them at:
How to ensure that the first lesson goes really well
Structuring your lessons
12 teaching strategies for more effective tutoring
How to market yourself
Your tax as a self employed tutor
How to set up your website
The best way to tutor University students
Helping a reluctant student