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How to Become a Tutor: Excelling in Your First Home Tuition Assignment

After registering as a tutor with MindWorks Tuition agency, you are thrilled to receive a message that you have found your first home tuition assignment! Congratulations!

But this is probably when a growing sense of anxiety settles in the pit of your stomach. How will you ensure you start on the right foot? What can you expect during your first lesson? You may have an endless stream of questions for your first lesson, so in this article, MindWorks outlines some of the best practices you can follow to ensure long-term success in your career as a tutor.

Private home tutor in Singapore prepares lesson plans

First impressions are critical!

Now, while this may seem daunting, you should know first impressions are extremely important. Research suggests that first impressions are very, very hard to change. When we meet someone for the first time, we make a quick, unconscious evaluation - forming a potentially irrational, incomplete, and inflexible image of them.

While a negative or unprofessional first impression may damage your relationship with your student and his/her parents, this can also be the best opportunity for making the right kind of impression. People tend to be favourably biased of those they have liked from the beginning, giving them more room for human error.

So, how can you make a good impression on your student and his/her parents during your first lesson?

1. Dress professionally, be punctual, and come with a plan!

parents and private home tutor meet to align expectations

Make sure to dress professionally for your first home tuition lesson.

"Professional" clothing usually refers to modest business casual to formal clothing that can vary widely between industries and contexts. However, in the case of home tuitions, here are some key things to consider when selecting your wardrobe:

  • Remember to stay age-appropriate. While a metal band t-shirt may be your go-to look, remember to wear simple, neutral clothing especially when tutoring younger children. Having a set of solid basics can greatly enhance your first impression.

  • Layering can help you be prepared for any study environment. Having a semi-formal blazer or cotton cardigan over outfits can help you stay warm in homes with constant AC or, inversely, can be taken off to stay cool in a warmer setting.

  • Avoid bright accessories. Home tuitions are strictly for learning, and your bright red bag, long silver earrings or fancy watches can be too distracting.

  • Wear comfortable shoes. As you will be travelling to your tutee's home, the commute can be long and tiring. In order to avoid discomfort and irritability, wear comfortable shoes which can be taken off if required before entering your student's home.

Next, always be punctual.

home tutor looks at his watch

MindWorks ensures that each tuition assignment is at least 1.5 hours long to respect your time and commitment as a tutor. Similarly, respect the time, money, and efforts made by your student and his/her family by always showing up on time or even a little early.

Moreover, as we discussed in our article, 8 Common Mistakes New Tutors Make and How to Avoid Them, do not rush to end the lesson on the dot. Stay for a few extra minutes to summarise and wrap up before you leave your first tuition lesson. This may mean scheduling your next appointment a little later than the required time for the commute.

Thirdly, come with a plan!

teacher's desk with teaching supplies

Have a designated procedure such as a list of questions you will be asking the parent and/or the student during your first lesson. This is discussed more in-depth later in the article. Another way to be prepared for your lesson is to bring your teaching "toolbox". This may be a mental list of resources, teaching techniques and more which you may need to use or actual materials such as an iPad, any specific textbooks, Worksheet printouts or past papers.

2. Be aware of the context and set healthy boundaries.

As a tutor, you are acting as an authority figure for your tutee during the lesson. However, as you provide these services in the home environment of the student, you also need to be respectful of his/her space.

study table in someone's home in Singapore

Different spaces can be used to carry social meanings. In this case, being in the tutee's home environment serves as a reminder that you are providing a valuable service to your client. You have actually come out of your way to visit their homes. However, as a figure of authority for the duration of the lesson, you may also want to establish your own rules and systems that can help establish a healthy relationship with your student.

For instance, you can request your tutee to have their study materials ready in a designated space for all future lessons. Since the environment in which we study can greatly impact one's learning outcome, you may also give suggestions on how to best create a comfortable study space. For more information, read 4 Factors That Can Accelerate Your Academic Performance: Tips for Top Performers in Singapore.

3. Take some time to get to know your pupil!

In your urgent need to impress, you may want to start teaching right away. However, your job as a tutor is not merely to convey information to your students. A key quality of a private home tutor is to be able to personalise lessons based on the student's needs. This is why you may benefit from taking it slow during your first lesson.

Spend a few minutes introducing yourself to the student and his/her parents.

If you feel nervous, you can always prepare an introduction in your mind beforehand, and use it on the day of your first lesson. But remember to not recite it mechanically! Sometimes the words you use are less important than the manner in which you convey them.

Perhaps the parents may have a few questions for you as well. Answer them truthfully and align expectations in the beginning. To know more about this, click here.

private home tutor gives an introduction

Now, establish a client profile by asking good questions and listening actively.

Here are some good questions you can ask your students during your first home tuition assignment:

  • What are your interests and hobbies outside of school?

  • Do you have a favourite book/movie/TV show/song? What do you love about it?

  • Tell me a little about your daily routine - how do you like to structure and plan your day?

The first two questions will help you understand your student's personality better so you can start to build trust. The third question can help you gauge his/her time management skills, as well as their current workload. This is important because it can be a good guide when assigning homework as well as a potential reason why he/she may be having academic difficulties.

  • What is your favourite subject in school?

  • What are your future aspirations? What career do you want to pursue?

These next two questions can help you understand their academic interests and aspirations.

private home tutor has her first tuition assignment in Singapore

Following this, you can begin to explore any problem areas:

  • Are you facing any difficulties in school right now? Would you like to share them with me?

  • In (insert name of a particular subject you teach), are there any concepts from the syllabus you dislike or don't understand?

  • In general, during your studies, do you face challenges with any learning techniques? For example, I usually struggle with the memorization of dates. Have you experienced that?

Using these questions, you can progress from general difficulties in school to more specific issues within the syllabus and lastly overarching study skills like critical thinking, memorization techniques, and more. Once again, these questions can help you to personalise your lessons based on your student's needs.

4. Prepare your lesson plan.

Based on the information you have now gained, you can establish a lesson plan for this tuition assignment. Make sure to confirm the duration of each session as well as the duration of the entire tuition period.

Be aware of important examination schedules, and plan to revise material in an efficient way. You can spend more time on those topics the student is struggling the most with, while a quicker revision of more familiar topics will suffice.

Estimates of exam titles for PSLE and GCE O level exams in Singapore
estimate exam schedule for GCE A level exams in Singapore

Remember to keep your student aligned on the expectations for these tutoring sessions such as which topics will be covered in which week and what he/she can expect during the lessons. For the latter, you may want to explain which tools you wish to use, your preferred method of communication, and how you will be assigning homework.

Now, you are all ready for your first tuition assignment! We wish you the best of luck!

If you would like suggestions about which learning tools to use, check out the following articles:

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