EdTech 537: Commentary

Disclosure Statement:  I have been in education for the past twenty-two years.  Ten years as a traditional classroom teacher and the past twelve years as a professional tutor.  I own and operate a private tutoring company.

Commentary on Tutoring:

It seems like every time a local district wants to pass a bond, they state that a portion of the funds will go to reducing class size because “it’s a fact that smaller class sizes work!”  Well, if smaller class sizes work … you can’t beat a tutor!

As someone who spent many years as a classroom educator, private tutor and currently, as a private educator – I’m convinced that tutoring offers many benefits for students.  A good tutor will individualize instruction for one student throughout every learning session. The tutor will adjust the pace and approach to ensure that the student understands each concept before proceeding to the next.  The results: maximum learning gains and increased self-confidence.

When students begin to get lower grades, skip school, or avoid homework, tutoring can provide the focused step-by-step support for those needing to overcome learning challenges including:

  • Students with learning difficulties
  • Students struggling with course content and homework
  • Students needing to improve foundational reading, writing, math, or study skills
  • Students at risk of dropping out of school

According to the New York Times, tutoring is booming!

While tutors once focused on helping children who were falling behind in particular subjects or had a learning disability, they are now being used far more to guide students through particularly tough courses, insure their grades are equal to or above their peers’ and, in the end, polish a child’s college application.

A private tutor is able to focus on specific areas that a student may be having problems with. A school teacher will only be able to give limited private attention to students as they are constrained by time and tough targets for subject coverage. Confidence and self-esteem are extremely important factors to learning any subject. The more confident a child feels with their schoolwork, the more creative their thought processes become which means they will be able to grasp complicated concepts much more easily. Many children may be too shy to ask questions in class and may then miss out on key points in their subjects. They are much more likely to ask questions in a one-on-one environment with their tutor.  Students often require help understanding a concept that their classroom might not have explained sufficiently and may sometimes feel more comfortable with a private tutor than classroom teacher because they receive more one-on-one attention and instruction tailored to their personal needs.  A private tutor is capable of covering more detail in a relatively short time. They can work at the student’s pace and become very familiar with their capacity for learning and the methods that work best for them when explaining sometimes advanced concepts. Every child is different and a good tutor should be able to identify and adapt to the individual needs and capabilities of the student.

However, it wasn’t until my daughter shared reflections on her own tutoring experience that I began to fully understand just how much more tutoring can do for students than merely boost their grades and test scores. Throughout her schooling, my daughter visited regularly with tutors in a variety of subjects. Some subjects (like chemistry for example), she felt uncomfortable with and others (like writing), she had always done fairly well in. There were many reasons we enrolled her with private tutors depending on the subject.

Unknowingly, we were providing her with an important tool for life. Her grades benefited from these private instruction sessions and she finished her schooling successfully. However, beyond that, she also gained the confidence to continue pursuing her education and a lifetime of learning even after her final graduation. Having tutors taught her how to communicate her thoughts, work through adversity, ask important questions and most importantly, how to find true excitement in learning new things. One-on-one instruction not only fosters learning, it can also foster a student’s self-worth.

I asked my daughter if she felt tutoring benefited her during school. She said:

“Tutoring helped to get through my school days, but my tutors helped me to feel important and that is a gift I still keep even today.”

So, you’re ready to hire a private tutor?  The most compelling motivator to selecting a private tutor is a positive referral. Find a tutor that has great feedback from others, especially from teachers and the local school district.  The higher the level of tutoring you are looking for, the higher the qualifications requirements should be.  As with anything, expect to get what you pay for. A very experienced private tutor generally will charge a premium for their services. There really is no substitute for a highly experienced, qualified and reliable private tutor.



About kimberlyhefty

Hello. My name is Kimberly Hefty and I live in Sammamish, Washington. For the past 23 years I have taught high school and college level mathematics. 13 years ago I started a private tutoring business. I specialize in working with public high school students who are taking math courses "on-line". I work closely with both the students and the local school district. I typically work with 40-50 students per week. I also have 2 children ages 14 and 23. My daughter just graduated from Elon University in North Carolina. My son plays competitive golf and premiere soccer so most of my weekends are spent at either soccer or golf tournaments. I am excited to be completing the Master's In Educational Technology Program from BSU (M.E.T.) Spring 2015! Through this program I have gained a better understanding of educational technology and it’s applications. I believe that the knowledge that I have gained will be beneficial personally, as well as to my students. With these skills that I have learned in the Educational Technology program, I hope to help myself and my students be successful in future endeavors. The M.E.T. program has allowed me to create an environment for all of us, my students along with myself, to gain skills for education, employment, and existence.
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7 Responses to EdTech 537: Commentary

  1. Kaelyn B says:

    We have a great tutoring program at our school. I have seen tutors help students put their best foot forward. In college, I sought a tutor for myself in a math class. The professor would not sign my permission form because he felt students used tutors as a crutch. What are your thoughts on this? How do you help students grow to be independent of your services?

    • Thanks for the input Kaelyn. It is true that some students definitely use tutors as a crutch, but I believe it is the minority of students who do so. For many students tutors help build confidence. The local district only requires students take 3 years of math and many students would stop there because they lack the confidence or the skills to continue. However, seventy-five percent of my students are taking their 4th year of math, not because it is required, but because they feel they are better off for it. A good tutor helps fill in any gaps of foundational skills which will improve a students confidence and make them more likely to continue, with or without a tutor.

  2. Hi Kimberley:

    If you really want to differentiate than a tutor is probably the best way to do it. I have tutored students in the past and I think the two most important items are finding someone who relates well to the student and someone who truly understands the content. I was really surprised at your daughter’s comments on how tutoring impacted her in a nonacademic sense.

    • Bryan, you are 100% correct! Tutors must connect with the students they work with or it never works. The student must WANT to be helped ~ parents can’t push them into it … that never works out well for anyone.
      Understanding the content or area is critical! A good tutor must support and reinforce what is learned in the classroom. No student wants to wait around while a tutor “figures it out”.
      Thanks for the feedback!

  3. Pingback: EdTech 537: Commentary | Angie Kruzich: EdTech Learning Log

  4. Erin Daley says:

    It really cannot be a shock to anyone that a private tutor is going to to nothing but good for any student. I was actually writing at some point in this course about how blogging would give quiet students a chance to have their voice heard and ask questions, but I like that you point out that a tutor can have that same quality. You’re right when you say you get what you pay for, but what about the kids whose parents simply cannot afford a tutor? Do you know of any high-quality, low cost tutoring programs?

    • I know that the really good private tutors in our area all take on “scholarship” students. Every year I will get a call from a school counselor, principal, or teacher asking me to work with someone for little to no cost. I always do and all the other tutors I know do the same.
      Some of the big tutoring companies also usually agree to scholarship some students as well; however, I have heard they usually use “tutors in training” and not their top ones.
      My experience has been that the best “free” programs involve peer tutors who have been well trained and coached.

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