How to Make the First Tutoring Session Effective?

First Tutoring Session

Well, the first tutoring session is an important augury for things to come

Mary Poppins said, “Well begun is half done”. As parents, deciding to go in for tutoring for your wards represents significant commitment of resources and time. Clearly, you’d want the same to be effective and achieve your expectations. Similarly, if you are a tutor, you’ll very well realize that this is a service being delivered and as with most services, the first impressions count for a lot! Lastly, for the tutees or students being tutored, it’s imperative that the tutoring support starts well, lest the students start losing their enthusiasm to learn and become distracted. Well then, it’s clear the first tutoring session is important for all the stakeholders. How to best approach it then? How can each of the stakeholders approach it so that the ultimate objectives of tutoring are achieved?

Here’s a short list of ingredients that can make the first tutoring session the most appetizing starter, for what can be a very fulfilling and healthy edu-diet.

For Tutors – Understanding your student and the tutoring objectives is the most critical prep

First things first – you may already know the basic details of your tutee. Things like name, age, education board, school, parent background, house location etc. Just before the first class is the right time to dig a bit deeper, and understand, what are the stated and unstated objectives for the tutoring. Have a one-on- one session with the parent. Stated objectives are easier to discern, unstated ones need some active prodding and intelligent questioning. Importantly, understand if the tutee shares the same objectives and priorities, by talking to him/ her for some time, candidly and very informally, prior to the first academic session. If not, it may be useful to circle back to the parent and align expectations, all across.

Then, you move on to formulating the right teaching style for the student. Any key areas of strength? Are there any ‘weak areas’ where the student needs more time? More examples based approach or active problem solving oriented style of pedagogy – what would work better? While the style can be actively refined, it would be wise to have the style, plan of topics and flow etc. charted out broadly for the specific student so that the objectives can be achieved within the time period envisaged.

First Tutoring Session

Then finally, ensure you take care of the basic things at your end and communicate the same. Being presentable to the parent and the student is non-negotiable and quite needless to mention! Then communicating the ground rules of engagement (contact protocol, timings, non-acceptability of delays, homework, leave policy etc.) can show the thought process at your end and instill confidence to parents. Lastly, be prepared and ready to take any subject matter related queries from students or parents. For e.g. what variations of probability theory are relevant for the Olympiads? Caution here – while you should address queries to alleviate anxiety and confusion of students, do not start teaching in detail on the first day! It may not be effective as you may not be able to do justice to the topic and importantly, the student may get overawed at the details. If you can provide details enough to get the student interested and thrilled, that’s ideal!

For Parents – Thought clarity on the need for tuition can do a world of good

The first and most important thing needed from the parents’ side is thought clarity on why this tutoring is being undertaken. Is it for supporting day to day homework and exercises, since parents may not be around? Are you keen on improving grades over the next few months, to reflect in the child’s performance in the coming quarterly or half yearly examinations? Is your goal (and importantly, shared by your child as well) of doing well in the next Olympiad? Whatever the objectives may be, it’s important you write them down and internalize for yourselves and your child.

Secondly, the same clarity has to be communicated to the tutor. While this should have been a key consideration at the time of selecting the tutor, you can still communicate the same to tutor, prior to the first tuition session or around it. As the saying goes, ‘A stitch in time saves nine’. The worst possible case, in case there is significant capability or intent misalignment with the tutor, is that you need to select a new tutor. Professional tutor agencies, typically, may be able to provide ready alternatives and this time you may want to be clear and articulate with them while indicating your wish list.

Lastly, it may be worthwhile to evaluate the space you intend to provide for tutoring and address any specific gaps. If it’s home tutoring face-to- face, for one, you may want to confirm availability of a healthy and comfortable seating arrangement for both the tutor and the child. If it is internet based, how good is the computer and internet connection? Audio-Video hardware and software setup is ready and effective? How’s the overall noise level – can some sound proofing help things?  

For Students – Be honest with your tutor (totally!) and try to be prepared as much as possible

Be honest with your tutor when you get the time – after all, he/she’s there to help you! Tell the tutor your area of strengths and weaknesses, your general (or even specific) objectives, what styles you’re comfortable with and what you’re not. Take examples of topics you enjoy and why and likewise for topics you’ve started disliking or worse, hating. Give as many points of data as possible for the tutor to spot patterns and identify what could work for you and what might not. It need not be a formal conversation and it’s only to open your world as relevant for the subject for the tutor to observe and learn.

Next, try to be prepared. In many ways! Have all school related books and notebooks together and easy to reach. Have your specific diary (or online document) open and ready to jot down key points. Have your calendar and dates of exams/ tests ready for discussion with the tutor. On an ongoing basis, maintain list of open queries at one point, so everyone’s time is best utilized.

Lastly, make up your mind to be yourself and be willing to make mistakes. If you show the ability and intent to make self-corrections, all well-meaning tutors would be happy to help!

In a nutshell

At Concept Tutors, we accord top priority to preparation and application of mind, to the new tutor arrangement and believe, this can do wonders for both the tutor and the child. Parents can in turn, facilitate the entire process and maximize the value to all. One would do well to remember the following quote right at the start!

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is the first tutoring session” – slightly modified version of a quote from Edith Lovejoy Pierce

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