How to be a good tutor for kids & teens

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A very good thing in today’s world is the fact that if kids and teens want or need to learn something, they have plenty of opportunity to do so. 

So, even if they don't flourish in the traditional classroom, they can try to supplement their knowledge and build skills through other means. Or, if they simply can’t find instruction in a particular topic or subject in school, they can look outside of school for help.

Such opportunity is presented in a variety of forms, from free learning through widely-available channels like YouTube and more structured education portals, to those experiences where you're booking with live instructors; as is the case with an after-school learning center, Virtual Tech Camps, and more. 

We see it all the time with coding. It’s not something taught in most schools, but kids can look to coding camps for an educational experience, or to the many different types of online learning. They can - to the heart of this blog post - find a programming tutor; or, more relevant to today’s at-home landscape, seek out virtual tutors, even.

But with availability comes another layer of decision making.

First, parents need to figure out which of these experiences is best for their child. After that, say they do settle on something like tutoring, what is it that makes a great tutor? What are the qualities they'll be looking for when it comes to pairing their child up with someone they need to help instruct and guide them to their goals?

Why a tutor?

First, though, it’s important to remind of the importance a one-on-one relationship can have. The benefits of a one-on-one tutor can’t be overstated, and go beyond this tiny paragraph. But above all else, a tutor is there to instruct, but also to encourage, and to be available to help kids overcome challenges and roadblocks that might otherwise prove to be insurmountable. 

How to be a good tutor?

So, then, how do those benefits of tutoring translate into the traits that tutors should possess in order to maximize the learning experience?

To help make the unknown a bit more tangible, think about what the perfect teacher looks like; what characteristics do they possess? A great tutor follows the same mold, but also accounts for the intricate differences that arise when instructing moves from one-to-many to one-on-one. 

1. Knowledgeable 

It’s a given, right? The tutor instructing children should be knowledgeable and skilled in the area they’re teaching. This level of knowledge should vary based on student's particular need, whether that's simply assisting a child with their multiplication tables, or being a private tutor hired to assist with AP Java. Each tutor needs to be knowledgable in their own right. 

But, while it’s an obvious point, it’s one to keep top of mind, especially the more specialized a parent's needs get. For instance, on one parent will need a math tutor, but another might need a trigonometry tutor. Or, you have a coding tutor, but then one who specializes in Python for kids

So, a good tutor is going to be generally knowledgeable, but they should also be more than proficient in the specifics if it’s the specifics parents need their students to build upon. 

2. Approachable

Something even adults struggle with is being seen as a burden. Some of us might not ask questions because we don’t want to be seen as an inconvenience. This has a little to do with personality, but it also has something to do with how the person we want to ask these questions makes us feel about doing so. 

So, a great tutor will break down these walls. They will make it known that no question is insignificant, and no time is a “bad time” to be asking. Sure, there should always be boundaries and structure, but a good tutor should have no problem stopping mid- lesson to ensure they’re addressing any confusion before moving forward (and exacerbating the situation). 

And it’s not just being able to ask questions. For parents and their children, if they prefer to dive deeper into a particular subtopic or spend a bit more time in a certain area in order to solidify understanding, then they should feel 100% confident in being able to do so.

3. Fun and engaging

Education comes in all shapes and sizes, and there are a million different options and paths to choose. 

But, those tutors who stand apart from the crowd will keep kids engaged, and the best way to do that is with fun and customization—meaning, are kids more likely to be drawn to something designed specifically for them, or something general that’s rolled out to every participant? 

For instance, with iD Tech’s online tutoring, kids can select from custom tech lessons where they guide the direction of what they want to be learning. Then, the tutor on the other end applies that topic to a student’s unique interests. From baseball to martial arts, and travel, music, and more; tutors are experts at linking passions to topics like coding and game development. 

So, students connecting with their tutor shouldn’t be a nice to have. There are tutors who specialize in empowering students, and expertly get them interested in topics to maximize the entire learning experience. 

4. Adaptable

To the point above, one huge benefit of students learning through a tutor versus having to do so in a large group of students is the customization only a one-on-one session can maximize. 

So, when looking for a tutor for their children, parents will probably be seeking an opportunity that offers adaptability. It’s one thing if their kid or teen has a very specific challenge they’re trying to overcome, but it’s another if they are simply trying to grow their skills in a particular area. 

With the latter, sure, there is a path to follow, but that path should also adapt to each student’s personal circumstances, and be less “by the book.”

5. Organized and forward thinking

These may seem like two unrelated points, but stick with me. 

Parents want to see progress. That means, their student entered into a learning experience with their skills and understanding at “this” level, and after, have seen those skills increase to “that” level. It may not happen after one single session, but that’s what they're building toward. Makes sense!

So, a great tutor in this regard is one who is organized enough to keep tabs on progress, and is also forward thinking to provide direction on where to go next. 

For instance, with iD Tech online tutors, parents and students are emailed post-session progress reports, complete with a summary of concepts covered, detailed lesson notes, and input on what the next lesson might look like. 

A tutor is more than a word

What I mean by that is, some parents might think it's enough to simply match their student up with a tutor. But, while it’s a great first step, others will really be going the extra mile to ensure that it’s not just a “tutor” but a great educational experience in which students won’t only enjoy, but will thrive. 

A photo of Ryan

Ryan manages blog content at iD Tech, starting with the company in 2008. He earned his MBA from Santa Clara University after obtaining his Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State. Connect on LinkedIn!