In the first place, what is a good tutor? Is he necessarily someone who has taught in a ‘good’ school? Is he necessarily someone who has a Master or Ph.D degree? Or is he necessarily someone who has a good ‘track record’ in tutoring?
I often ask my students to rate the quality of their school teachers and other tutors that they have and why they give those ratings. I don’t ask them to give myself a rating because it might pressure them to say positive things about me; I learn about how students view me as a tutor from other students, from their parents, and from people who contact me for tuition. I also learn from callers about what they look for in a tutor, although I must say that some of them are ill-informed about what constitutes good tutoring.
I believe it is generally accepted that a good tutor:
(1) knows the content of the subject very well, either via formal qualifications or many years of teaching experience or both;
(2) is very familiar with the exam syllabus of the subject, preferably including the marking standards of the relevant examining body;
(3) has lots of good resources to support his teaching;
(4) is able to adapt his teaching style to the student’s learning style, knowing full well that every child is different;
(5) is genuinely concerned about the academic well-being of the student.
You would notice that (1), (2) and (3) above are information that can be obtained from a potential tutor over the phone or from his website. But information (4) and (5) are far more elusive as these take time to be discovered. So one good way of finding a tutor is via a referral or recommendation from a reliable source or person. However, even then, you must keep in mind that what works for one student may not work for another.
Hence while asking questions about the tutor’s qualifications, tutoring experience and availability of educational resources or getting a recommendation from someone may be good preliminary tutor-finding actions, a parent still needs to let his or child experience a few lessons (at least one) with the tutor in order to obtain a better picture of the tutor’s coaching and inter-personal qualities. As some people put it, there has to be “chemistry” between the tutor and the student for success in the long term.
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