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What To Expect From Your First Tutoring Session?

When you're looking for help to improve your academics, it's important to find the right tutor. But what should you expect from your first tutoring session? Keep reading to find out! 

Your tutor will likely ask about your goals and current struggles during your first tutoring session. They'll also give you an overview of how they plan to help you meet those goals. Next, you'll work together to create a schedule and discuss any costs involved. After that, it's time to get started with some productive learning! 

One-to-one tutoring is a powerful tool that you can use to help students achieve their goals. However, as with all learning, tutoring is implemented most effectively over an extended period. During the beginning phase, here's what to expect from your first tutoring sessions:

Scheduling. One of the most appealing aspects of one-to-one tutoring is sheer convenience. However, it's not always easy to coordinate after school programs or learning centre time slots – with a private tutor. You can set schedules based on ideal for you and your family. Tutoring is best with consistent practice and review, so planning a convenient schedule that works for everyone is high on the priority list!

Building Rapport. At Tutor Doctor, we work hard to ensure students and tutors are matched based on their personalities, learning styles, and other factors. Even still, tutors will need to know the student in person as lessons begin. Students tend to become more engaging (asking more questions, for instance) as they become more comfortable with the instructor. Therefore, during the initial sessions, our tutors develop a learning plan compatible with the student's personality and individual academic needs.

Identifying Strengths. Tutors will need to get a general baseline of students' abilities, especially their strengths. Using students' strengths to their advantage can be a powerful tool, especially with younger students. For example – a younger student is a visual learner, highly artistic, and struggling with fractions. Visual examples (i.e. slices of a pizza) can help demonstrate these concepts in a way that makes sense to the student when arithmetic isn't clear. During these first tutoring sessions, our tutors work to identify areas in which the student already excels so that these strengths can aid the learning process further.

Discussing Areas That Need Improvement. As it turns out, many students can identify the areas they need help. However, it's not always as simple as saying "maths" or "geometry." As tutors, it's our job to identify potential gaps in students' learning. One of the main benefits of private tutoring is going back and revisiting topics and concepts that were unclear. For example, a student may be struggling with geometry not because they don't comprehend the proofs and theorems but because they never fully understood the unit on angles and measurements from their previous algebra class the year prior. As we always say, learning is based on building blocks – and as tutors, we can go back and "fill the gaps" in a student's academic foundations.

Goal Setting. We want to have clearly defined goals set for our students. Tutors often use these initial sessions to help discuss and refine these goals. It's not uncommon for students to have a goal in mind ("get better grades"), but tutors can help break down the steps needed to get there. We want our students to have measurable, tangible, and, most importantly, reasonable goals. The first tutoring sessions are ideal for outlining these goals with the student and then developing a plan to achieve those goals. With an organised outline of their progress and incremental checkpoints to work towards, students are often amazed at what they can accomplish in a short period!

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First Tutoring Session - Top Ten Tips

As a tutor, your first lesson with each student is crucial in laying the foundations for an ongoing relationship and setting the agenda for future sessions.

Most teachers will know that your first lesson with a new class is vital in setting your behavioural expectations and enthusing your class. Of course, one-to-one tuition demands a different approach, where your enthusiasm is important, but the main aims are to build a bond with your student and gain their trust.

Here are our top ten tips on how to deliver the perfect first tuition lesson:

Ask The Right Questions Before The Lesson.

It is vital - which is why we've put it at number one! Whether you can deliver a great first lesson is often about having all the information you need beforehand. So make sure you have asked:

  • The subject
  • The age/level
  • Current working level (grades achieved) - this will allow you to prepare material based roughly at the right level of your student.
  • Areas where the student feels they are struggling (if they're able to identify this)
  • Expectations of tuition - you need to know whether your student is looking for long-term tuition or a one-off lesson.

Dress To Impress (But Not To Intimidate) And Arrive On Time.

Tutors should match their student's aspirations; therefore, your attire is important in demonstrating your standards. Tutors should wear smart-casual clothing and be well presented. If you are teaching a primary-aged child, you will not wear the same as for lessons for business accounting. As in everyday life, like it or not, your students and their parents will make an immediate judgement of your suitability based on your attire, so dress well.

Being late for your first lesson makes a terrible impression. If in doubt, set off early or book the lesson slightly later than you feel would be best. Always make sure that you have got your student's exact address well in advance and planned your journey, so you arrive with time to spare. Saying your bus was late will just not cut it in your first lesson. 

If you are teaching online, make sure you are in a suitable working environment with limited or no distractions. We would recommend that you run a browser test before the lesson is scheduled to begin to allow you to check that your connection, camera and microphone are all working and avoid any disruptions at the beginning of the lesson. 

Everyone understands that there are times when unavoidable delays happen, so make sure that you have the student's phone number on hand so you can call ahead if you need to.

Introduce Yourself And Find Out What Your Student's Aims Are

Students are looking to make great progress. However, they are also looking to enjoy learning and working with someone they like, so get to know them! Please introduce yourself and ask them about themselves. The approach you take will vary based on each student, but the aim is to make them feel comfortable and get them talking. For example, you may want to ask them where they go to school/college, what their favourite subjects are or what else they are studying, their hobbies, etc.

Again, this will depend on the age of your student. If they are old enough, ask them what their aims are and would like specific help. Ask about time frames and their current levels - the best tutors can quickly make their student's hopes into shared targets. They may also be able to tell you how they learn best so that you can support their particular style of learning. 

If the student is younger, talk to them about why they have tuition. Remember, even young children often know when they find a subject difficult and will be pretty switched on about why they have tuition - you aim to make sure that they feel like it is a positive opportunity for them to get additional help.

Explain How Sessions Will Work

Many students will never have had a tutor before, so it is up to you to set the agenda. Let them know how lessons will work best and how sessions are different from school or college. Explain that:

  • It will be more like a conversation.
  • To stop you when they don't understand anything.
  • To ask questions whenever they need to.
  • You will work on the areas they struggle in, which will help them the most.
  • And answer any questions they might have about how it will work.

Bring Resources And Assess Their Current Level Of Study.

Get your student to complete some pre-prepared questions or activities to determine their working level and how they work. It serves a variety of purposes:

  • Bringing resources demonstrates that you have prepared for the lesson and will work hard to help them achieve their goals.
  • It lets you check the level your student is currently working at. Often parents and students are unsure about their child's or their ability. When they are more informed, you may disagree with their school's assessment. It will be vital in letting you plan for future sessions.
  • It lets you see how they work and their attitude to studying. Often students need help with their study skills, i.e. how neat they are, how they read questions, plan answers, the speed they take to form responses, etc.
  • It lets you build shared objectives. Make sure that you are positive about their correct answers and their wrong answers. When they make a mistake, a great response would be, 'Okay, that's great. You've got that one wrong, so that's something we can help you get better at.'

Make The Student Feel Confident.

It is a good idea to begin tuition at an easier level than the student suggested in your earlier communications. You can test whether to move ahead more quickly by challenging them early in the process. It will let them settle into private tuition but swiftly discover their real ability level. It will also ensure that they make progress during their first sessions.

If you find that a student struggles with a lot of the content of a first lesson, they could quickly become disheartened and feel tutoring isn't for them. Be sure to have a couple of 'easy wins' for a student so that you can allow them to impress you with their knowledge. You can revert to these short tasks when you feel the student has had to show resilience during the session for a particularly long time. 

Teach Them Something New

The first lesson is primarily about finding out about the student's level, and you also need to demonstrate your ability as a tutor! Remember that you do have to sell yourself - students and parents have a wide choice of tutors, so you have to prove yourself.

Pick one of the areas your student made a mistake in and teach them this skill. Be enthusiastic. Use diagrams or notes that you can leave with them or consider multimedia resources. Kids love innovative sites, apps and videos. It might be harder if you don't know what you will cover, but as you tutor more and more, you will build a great bank of resources and references you can draw on.

In your first lesson, it is better to be over-prepared than under-prepared! Always have a backup plan, and various tasks you can use should you need them. As you don't know exactly where the child is in their learning, having several tasks pitched at different levels will allow you to use what you find appropriate within the lesson. You could also use one of the harder tasks to teach your student something new. 

Leave Some Home Learning.

Your students will have to practise the skills you teach them whilst you're not there, which means that you'll need to leave them some homework.

The word homework might spark some groans, but you should always leave something for your student to practice together at the end of your first lesson. It will send a great message to students that you are thinking carefully about supporting them to reach their goals.

Leave a relevant and interesting activity so that your pupil doesn't feel that learning with you is like additional schoolwork. By this stage, if all has gone well, the student will have bought into how much your tuition will help them.

Build A Rapport With The Student's Parents

It is vital to building a great rapport with the student and their parent(s). It will begin when you first arrive - shakes hands, be polite, etc. but mainly when you leave. Give the parents at least 10 minutes to discuss their child's needs at the end of the first session. This time should be in addition to the amount of time scheduled itself.

Being a tutor is about helping your students make great progress and build their confidence. One hour a week can make a difference, but it will make a real impact when you build a relationship with parents to help them support their child and formulate a great plan to help the student as a team. It's also great to ask for feedback from the child's teacher, as this will help you triangulate your approach. Finally, agree on a plan for tuition and the areas to cover in future lessons and…

Book In Your Next Lesson

Ultimately, it would help if you remembered that your income is based on securing long-term students as a professional tutor. Be confident and ask parents when they would like their next session and how often they would like lessons to take place. 

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The first tutoring session is an opportunity for you to explore your goals, identify what type of help you are seeking and decide whether or not the tutor can meet those needs. It's also a chance for the tutor to learn more about how they might serve you best and see if any areas need additional attention to address your specific learning challenges. It would be best if you had an idea of what outcome you want from this meeting before it begins so that both parties know where things stand when the time comes to terminate their relationship together.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Establish a Personal Rapport.
  • Ask Questions.
  • Check to Ensure Things are Going at the Right Speed.
  • Conduct 'Mini Tests' to Ensure Understanding.

Ask about time frames and their current levels - the best tutors can quickly make their student's hopes into shared targets. They may also be able to tell you how they learn best so that you can support their particular style of learning. If the student is younger, talk to them about why they have tuition.

Enthusiastic: If the tutor does not love the subject they are tutoring, how can they expect the student to enjoy it. Good Listener: The tutor should develop good listening skills to understand students' misconceptions and errors better.

Teaching and tutoring involve a lot more differences than you might think. While teachers have to manage large class sizes of up to 30 students, a tutor's job is to support students' learning more personally and flexibly.

Research shows that students do best when they are engaged in tutoring services regularly and consistently. For most students, twice a week provides this support without feeling overwhelming.

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