Tutoring can be one of the most rewarding jobs you’ll ever have!


When you invest in another person’s life it sparks something inside you! Especially when you see results! We’ve all heard the inspiring story of the teacher that spoke positive affirmations to the student…When everyone else was telling him/her, “You can’t do that!” That one teacher saw something special in that student.  Isn’t it amazing that far into adulthood that student remembered the positive declarations that the one teacher spoke over them? And inconceivably that one declaration gave them the courage to believe that they could push past all those who told them, “You can’t do that!” That’s who you can be for your student! Remember that during every session – you have the opportunity to be that teacher/tutor and change the trajectory of your student’s lives. That’s exciting!!

1. Speak Positively

Early on in your relationship you want to discover where your student strengths are. Be sure to remind them of their strengths frequently, throughout your tutoring sessions.  They need to hear positive affirmations again and again, in order for them to believe them beyond their own self-doubts or what they may be hearing from others (classmates, etc.).  When you see a strength in your student, mention it.  “Johnny, I am amazed how quickly you understood that concept – you are really smart.”  And when they struggle, “I know you’re smart Johnny, just take a minute to think it through, you can do this.”  These encouraging words cannot be awarded enough. We believe what we hear – and quite often our students are hearing negativity in their own thoughts. It’s not difficult to imagine how tough it is to struggle through a subject, and doubt that you will ever understand it, as you watch your classmates grasp it so easily.  That’s extremely frustrating. Be their cheerleader! Don’t flatter them – be authentic.


2. Be A Student of Your Student

Having the ability to work one-on-one with your students is ideal! Unfortunately, teachers don’t have this privilege – which puts you one step ahead. Working individually with a student allows you to see concepts that the student doesn’t understand and allows you the time to carefully teach them. Look for these clues:

  • Your student rushes you through a section (often it’s because they want to move on because they don’t understand)
  • They consistently struggle with a similar exercise/concept
  • They joke and try to distract you
  • They ask you too often to lead them through (so that you do the work for them)

As you become familiar with your students you will recognize patterns.  Look for these patterns and be a bit of a detective. Ask leading questions to help you with your assessment of your student’s struggles and abilities.


3. Build Relationship

It’s especially important to establish a strong connection with your student. This is pretty easy in a tutoring session.  Remember the basics – everyone likes to be liked.  Who doesn’t love it when you meet someone who believes in you?!  You want your student to know that they can trust you, you are on their side, and that you believe in them. Tips to build a relationship with your student:

  • Listen carefully and attentively listen to your students as they talk
  • Noticeably enjoy your time together
  • Celebrate their accomplishments
  • Tell them you’re on their side and your job is to make their life easier
  • Relay concerns to their parents out of their earshot or eyes (remember texts on apple products are often seen on the family computer at home as well as Mom and Dad’s phones)

You have the advantage of being a mentor and coach for your student.  When you have a strong relationship with them, they will put forth more effort for you. We tend to rise to the expectations of those who believe in us.


4. Expect Respect

This step might surprise you!  As a tutor there is a fine line between teacher and friend. It is definitely a balancing act to maintain respect as a “teacher” vs. a friend.  While you want to be your student’s cheerleader, you also want to establish a mutual respectful relationship. As you demonstrate respect for your student, you are able to require it from him.  Without it, your student will have control of your sessions.  Think about it: Your student is struggling with a concept and because you have become very comfortable with each other, he begins to joke. Cracking jokes or distracting in the midst of a problem is a sure sign that he doesn’t understand the material.  If you have respect, you will be able to laugh and bring him back to the work or insist that he focuses on the problem at hand.  Without respect you will lose his attention and be unable to direct your student and lose control of your time together. Here are some tips to gain respect:

  • First and foremost, show respect to your student
  • When he speaks, listen attentively
  • When you speak, expect that he will listen attentively and when he doesn’t, require him to (nicely)
  • If your student tries to distract you consistently, stop and kindly (but firmly) tell him you are there to help him, but he needs to let you help him. Tell him what you expect and that his behavior doesn’t help him, or you to do your job (i.e., make his life easier).

You may have to have these “talks” often with your student until he understands that you mean business.  Students that lack confidence tend to distract and joke more.  Empathize with their position – this will help you endure their antics and maintain your patience.   Just knowing the academics of a subject does not make you a good tutor. Being patient and empathetic are key components that will open the doors to trust, relationship, and ultimately learning.  Understand what the message that “being tutored” sends to your student.  Typically, being tutored has a negative connotation – that they are not able to grasp a subject.


Creating an environment in which your student sees as positive is one of the best strategies you can implement as a tutor.

Always enjoy your time together!