How to find the right private tutor

Whether you’re a parent of a struggling student, or a post-secondary student looking for some extra help in a subject, here are some great tips on finding the perfect tutor.

Editor’s note: This article has been newly updated.

Finding the best tutor for young and older students can be tricky. There are a lot of tutoring schools out there, but they usually have one teacher in charge of a group of students so there isn’t a lot of one on one help going on. More and more people are turning to private tutors since it’s easier to coordinate times, there’s more flexibility with holidays and scheduling conflicts, and they are able to develop a better sense of the needs of the person they’re tutoring. There are many private tutors and tutoring agencies to choose from, but before you make any decisions, here are five things to consider.

Education:

Ideally, you want someone who has some specialized background in the subject they’re tutoring. As a general guideline, it’s probably best to find a tutor who has completed his or her undergraduate degree in or related to the subject you need help with. If you’re a college or university student, those qualifications should be more than enough. Ask the potential tutor for their transcripts, and ask for a diagnostic session, which is basically a trial lesson where you get a sense of who they are and what they can do for you. Some tutors will charge you for this, while others may not. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.

If you’re a parent searching for a tutor, an undergraduate degree may not be enough, especially if your child has specific struggles in school, with behaviour or with learning. In these cases, you may want to find a tutor who is also certified by the appropriate body in your province – the Ontario College of Teachers, for example, oversees those who have completed their Bachelor of Education. The fact that they’ve probably all had teaching experience, and have a first-hand idea of what schools teach and expect, is a huge advantage.

Cost

Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate! If the private tutor comes to your home, they may charge a little more for transportation costs, so you can always suggest going to their home or meeting at a community centre or public library. Ask around and see what the going rate is for tutors in your area. As a ballpark figure, tutors with a university degree or more can range between $30-$45 per hour. If they tutor more than one person at a time, you can usually negotiate for a lower hourly rate. And if you hire a private tutor for multiple sessions, you can often pay less as well. This is one of the great benefits of hiring a private tutor – there’s wiggle room in deciding the cost!

Experience

Always ask for recent references from a tutor. Try to get at least three. A good tutor should be able to confidently hand over a few names and numbers for you to chat with. Be adamant about this! It’s important to know the experience other families have had with this tutor.

Teaching Style:
This is particularly important if you’re looking for a tutor for your child, but even if you’re a university student (or CEGEP student in Quebec), you want someone who has a personality that meshes well with your learning style. For instance, a student with low motivation to learn, or some behavioural issues at school, may need a private tutor who is confident, authoritative, and stern if he or she needs to be. On the other hand, a student who lacks confidence or is very sensitive will need a tutor who is gentler, flexible, and approachable. The easiest way to see how the tutor interacts with the student is to have a trial lesson. Be sure to arrange one or two before you officially hire the tutor.

Long Term Plans:

Obviously no one can guarantee what’s going to happen month to month, year to year, but an important question to ask tutors is: What are their long term plans? For example, can they commit to tutoring for a full school year? Do they have any plans to travel abroad for an extended period of time? Do they have another job or are they in the process of trying to find a full time job that may interfere with their availability to teach? These are all questions that will help you determine if the tutor is the right fit.

Private tutors for many subjects

More and more are finding their private tutors on Kijiji. There are math, science, English, French and history tutors- as well as tutors who specialize in essay writing, or even ESL (English as a second language). Follow the usual safety procedures when meeting someone new from online. Talk on the phone first, call references, and arrange to meet in a public place before you take any further steps. By keeping all these considerations in mind, hiring a private tutor can really help ease some of the anxieties that come along with school.

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