As a tutor I’ve always found that there is a fine line to be trodden between being the person that enables the student to gain greater confidence and skill in their studies and being the person that is relied upon to hold the student’s hand through every sentence written and every algebraic fraction solved. When found tilting towards the latter scenario you can find yourself feeling very frustrated as you are inevitably the one doing all the hard work. Even more difficult is when an already demotivated student becomes lazy in your lessons, whining at you to just give them the answer.
There can be quite a pressure for a tutor to submit to these demands. After all, parents are paying you a fair amount of money per hour and they expect results. It can be all too tempting to spoon feed your students, to give them all the answers and to coach them on exactly what to write, or exactly what to revise. It’s particularly difficult when the child or parent wants to continue to pay you for more and more of your hours ‘just to make sure’ that they get the grades that they want. Regular work is hard to come by in the tutoring world so when you get one of these students who demands more and more of your time it’s difficult to turn around and say ‘well actually I think it would be better if….’
Of course it would be nice if we all had the money to have someone coach our child through every step of the educational process. But surely that’s not really the point, is it? Research shows that students coming from private schools, where there is a great deal more spoon feeding, hand-holding and coaching from private tutors, find it much more of a struggle when they reach university where the individual contact time with professors is minimal. Independent learning is a key life skill and one that will serve students well if they learn it early on and should be the primary concern of any educator. We all need to be concerned with giving students the skills to self-teach.
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I am certainly not advocating the abolition of all private tuition, that would put me out of a job which I greatly enjoy. I think when used appropriately, it can make a huge difference to a student’s confidence and actually inspire more motivation for study. But I do think that we, tutors, parents and especially students, need to become more conscious about how the tutor-student relationship is set up. Luckily, most of us don’t have the money to throw at private tuition and so creating a dependency on it is simply not a financially viable option. If parents limit the time that their children spend with tutors then it’s likely to make the lessons more focused and the tutor will be encouraged to hone in on the exact problems faced by the student in order to get the best results. For tutors, this approach also proves to be much more rewarding. Emphasising the importance of the student’s own independent working will lead to much more interactive lessons and much more interesting than just sitting there spooning out the answers.