According to Woody Allen, eighty per cent of life is showing up. The same is true for tutors. It’s the last twenty percent that distinguishes excellent tutors, separating the wheat from the chaff. As tutors, we have to take advantage of the fact that we have the luxury to focus on a single student.
In the classroom, a teacher is faced with twenty different personalities, twenty different levels of ability, and a million different interests. As a tutor, it is incumbent on me to find out what works best for the individual student I’m teaching. That is both a perk as well as a challenge. It means that teaching can be more creative.
Every student is different, so teaching methods need to be tailored to what animates my student best. Maybe a painting can help to really get across Napoleon’s march towards Russia. A story about football star Cristiano Ronaldo could be key in learning Portuguese vocabulary. In maths, we know that most of us are terrible at thinking abstractly.
So when we talk about geometry, it is often a good idea to have some concrete models at hand to help with imagination. These are some of the options a tutor has at his or her disposal. In general, I believe that a tutor should not impart knowledge. Rather, tutors should guide students to discover things themselves. In order to do so successfully, I need to know my student, what he or she likes, struggles with, is interested in, and where I need to perhaps push a little bit more. This requires me to constantly adapt and change my techniques. Doing that is how tutors demonstrate whether they belong to the wheat or the chaff.