Becoming a tutor is easier than you might think. While many people imagine that you need certain qualifications or skills in order to become a tutor, this is not the case (not in the UK, at least); anybody can offer their services as a tutor, with the only barrier being whether there’s any demand for that particular skill. With that said, not just anyone can be a good tutor; you need certain personality traits and expertise if you’re going to get anywhere in this career, but it can be incredibly rewarding if you pursue it. Here are 9 things you need to become a tutor.
When you start off, being a tutor can be slow in terms of being paid. While you should never offer your services for free, you may find that you give many trial lessons, either for free or at a reduced rate, that doesn’t result in a permanent student signing up. That’s why it’s a good idea to get some money in the bank before you go solo as a tutor. You could dip into savings, for example, or ask friends and family for help. Another avenue could be personal loans, which could give you the help you need to get off the ground as a tutor.
Naturally, nobody is going to want to avail you of your services as a tutor if they don’t think you know what you’re talking about. That’s why you need expertise in your chosen field. If you’re thinking of becoming an English tutor, teaching those who don’t have English as their first language, then the chances are you already have the expertise you need; fluency in the language should be enough to get you started. However, if you want to teach music, for example, or art, then you’ll need to have skills in those areas to a very high standard.
3. A strong work ethic
Another essential quality for a tutor to have is a strong work ethic. At first, students aren’t going to come to you; there’s a chance you may have to be proactive in finding students and asking them if they want lessons. As the students do start to accumulate, you’ll find that you have more and more work to do, and staying on top of that work is a huge part of being a tutor. You’ll need to prepare lessons for each student, make sure the lesson is at their level, and deal with any curveballs that may come your way, all of which will require dedication on your part.
4. People skills
Don’t despair; you don’t need to be a glittering social butterfly to be a tutor. You do, however, need to have good people skills. Nobody likes a standoffish or hostile tutor, after all. Imagine that you’re learning a skill and that your tutor berates you or doesn’t seem interested in your progress. Naturally, you’re going to look for another tutor, right? That’s why you need to be personable and friendly as a tutor (all while remaining professional, of course).
No teacher ever managed to become successful without a huge degree of patience. Since you’ll likely be teaching students from scratch in many cases, you’re going to have to deal with a lot of mistakes on their part. It’s important for the student that you’re patient with them; they need to be able to make mistakes without being admonished in order to grow. Not only that, but your mental health will improve significantly if you exercise patience because you won’t grow annoyed with repeated mistakes.
You’ll often get students changing schedules or moving lesson times around as a tutor. Nobody expects you to be available 24 hours a day, but flexibility is important; you need to be able to meet your students halfway when it comes to rescheduling. Sometimes, students will need to change lessons on short notice, and you may actually find that a lesson is above or below their particular skill level. Being able to respond to these situations quickly and efficiently is one of the marks of a skilled tutor.
It’s one thing to be friendly and personable, but it’s quite another to maintain the requisite enthusiasm to be a great tutor. It’s extremely difficult to remain optimistic and enthusiastic in the face of teaching the same thing day in, day out, but it remains that a teacher must be able to do this if they want to keep students. Show pride in your students when they get things right, no matter how many times you’ve seen it happen before, and make sure to greet each student as though they are your first.
Imparting knowledge as a tutor is only half the battle. The other half is listening; asking a student how they feel about your class, what they would change, and what they’re enjoying so far, and being able to process that information. By listening and developing a two-way relationship with each student, you’ll become a better tutor, able to adapt your classes and change them when something isn’t working. Be sure to communicate with each student after class; provide them with feedback forms if you can.
9. A thick skin
Sometimes, students might harshly criticize you, and this might happen during a lesson, especially if they’re growing frustrated with what they’re doing. While you shouldn’t be expected to deal with abuse, you are going to need to be able to weather criticism; even if students aren’t harsh, they may have negative things to say about your lessons. It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible tutor, nor does it mean they hate you; criticism is a natural part of the tutor-student relationship. If you can give criticism, you have to be able to take it as well.