Private Tutoring for High School Students: An Overview for Parents

private tutoring high school studentWhen it comes to private tutoring high school students, the two biggest road blocks are time and attitude – and not only the student’s time and attitude. If you think your teen needs tutoring or after-school enrichment (or might looking down the road), here are a few aspects to tutoring high schoolers that you might want to consider.

Finding the Best Private Tutor for Your High School Student

Sooner Is Better Than Later

I know that it can be hard to fit one more thing into your teen’s busy schedule, but if you’re considering putting off private tutoring because of it, my advice is “Don’t.” Not if your child is struggling with a topic at school. Especially with high school students, it’s better to get them started with tutoring sooner rather than later because private tutoring takes time to work, and the concepts they learn in school build on each other.

Private Tutoring Takes Time

I’ve had parents try to sign up high school students for private tutoring a few weeks before taking the SAT or even the day before the student’s final exam. That’s a last-ditch effort, not a plan for success. I’m not saying it won’t help at all, but it’s not going to help as much as starting earlier.

Think about it. Even if the tutor manages to explain the subject and give the child an epiphany (no pressure, right?), it takes time and practice for the student to learn to apply that knowledge. Suddenly understanding how a derivative works isn’t going to help on the test if the student doesn’t get to see derivatives used in different types of math problems after that. In fact, the understanding may not even make it to the test if practice doesn’t reinforce it.

The best method for learning something well is to do it regularly over an extended period of time. The same is true for private tutoring. For students to truly make progress and keep it, they need time to practice what they learn.

Concepts Build on Each Other

In some cases, learning is like a stairway. Each step takes you closer to the top. If you’re missing a step here or there, you might still make it to the top by stepping over them, but the more you’re missing, the harder it will be. The same is true if your child doesn’t understand a lesson at school.

For example, if the student never quite understood how to add and subtract variables, he or she won’t be able to solve equations. Or if a student doesn’t learn to identify the clauses of a sentence, he or she won’t be able to label the sentence structure (the structures are defined by the clauses used). I could go on forever with topics students learn that build on each other.

And that’s the other big reason you don’t want to wait too long before finding a tutor. If your child is struggling with a topic that is needed for later concepts, then he or she can very easily fall behind.

Monitor your child’s progress. If he or she starts to get behind or show signs of struggling, do something.

It may not need to be hiring a private tutor. Maybe, you or the child’s older sibling or friend can help enough to get him or her up to speed. But if you can’t help or if the help isn’t working, don’t wait until right before the final test to find a private tutor.

Give your child time to practice, and do it early enough that he or she doesn’t fall further behind.

A Good Attitude Is Key

The other big idea to consider when looking for a tutor (especially for a high schooler) is attitude. For the tutoring to be a major success, both student and tutor need to have the right attitudes. Or they at least have to have attitudes that can work together.

Private Tutoring & the Student’s Attitude

Getting kids to do their homework can be hard enough when they understand it, but when they don’t, it can be even harder (although some of the same tricks may help). And anyone with a high school student knows that getting him or her to do what you want isn’t always the easiest part of your day.

In my experience, the hardest parts can be

  1. getting the student to admit that he or she doesn’t understand (A.K.A. needs help) and
  2. overcoming any embarrassment or pride at having to do work that’s below a certain level.

If you can meet those challenges without sacrificing too much teenage dignity, you have a good chance of getting the student’s cooperation. If they’re not eager, that’s fine (and common). They just have to be willing to do the work.

Private Tutoring & the Tutor’s Attitude

High school students who are feeling embarrassed or behind can be a bit touchy. Match that attitude with the wrong tutor, and a bit of bruised teenage pride can morph into a full-scale rebellion.

The best private tutors for high school students

  • respect the student (Recognizing the student’s ability to think and make decisions goes a long way in making the student willing to cooperate.),
  • expect respect in return (Students who sense that they can get away with ignoring their tutor, will.),
  • are patient (Progress may require multiple explanations and explaining in different ways.), and
  • don’t emphasize mistakes (Putting too much emphasis on student’s mistakes can trigger any insecurities or resentment the student is already feeling. It can also make the student afraid to try.).

Of course, the tutor needs to know the subject matter, too, but good ones will do both. Remember: if a tutor’s attitude prevents the student from learning, then, it doesn’t really matter how well the tutor knows the topic. So if any of these points come up (or if multiple seem like they might be issues), then, that’s a red flag that this may not be the best tutor.

So what’s the moral to the story?

Well, the long story short is that time and attitude can make a big difference in getting your money’s worth out of private tutoring. Make sure that you give the student time to learn (you might even enroll in an after-school program to keep them ahead), and try to find a tutor whose attitude helps instead of hurting.

Any questions? What else would you like to know about private tutoring for high school students?

Author: Elizabeth F., Writer and Teacher at A Grade Ahead

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