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5 Reasons Why Not to Hire a Tutor

Updated on November 5, 2011
Very good, Bobby, now find the derivative using logarithmic differentiation!
Very good, Bobby, now find the derivative using logarithmic differentiation!

I work part-time as a tutor for several different areas. I get a lot of calls and emails asking me to help and I've noticed an unsettling trend that often leads me to terminating my relationship with them and gently referring them to someone else (read: I don't want to deal with them, here go bother these people!).

Here are five reasons you shouldn't hire a tutor, and one (good) reason you should.

1. You don't want to do the work yourself.

For some reason, some people are unclear on what a tutor actually does. To them, it's a person who will do their work for them. Don't want to write a research paper? Hire someone to do that for you!

Okay, barring the fact that not only is that morally questionable, against school policy (no matter where you go), it can actually be illegal in some states.

Also, I went through school. I did my own work. Why should I do yours for you? $20 an hour is not enough to compromise my principles or potentially get fired for, you know, cheating.

Plagiarism starts with an F, not a P.
Plagiarism starts with an F, not a P.

2. You think it guarantees better grades.

Tutors are supposed to help you with your work and help you get better grades... but it's not a magical process where you pay the money and an A on your next paper appears. You have to put in the time and effort--I know, I know, how unfortunate. I particularly see this with parents who see their kid is failing and think that hiring a tutor will solve all their problems. While I am trying to help your child pass their class, it's hard to do that when she's texting on her phone the entire session... not to mention really rude.

Tutoring is a process. Speaking of which...

3. You think it guarantees instant results.

I had one woman who contacted me because her children were taking their PSATs and SATs and she wanted them to get some extra help beforehand. I was happy to help, until I heard that they were taking them in two weeks.

We're back to the idea of tutors somehow being miracle workers. These were not stupid kids, but they needed time and effort that I wasn't able to give them in a few hours over the course of two weeks. It takes time, especially when the subject matter is very broad and actually covers a number of things, like the SATs, which can focus on vocabulary, writing, grammar, and reading comprehension just in the Verbal section.

What else guarantees instant results?
What else guarantees instant results?

4. You think tutoring several hours at a time is the same as tutoring multiple one-hour sessions over a few weeks.

If a student is having trouble processing what they read in class, there could be a number of things going on. Maybe they just need to spend some extra time with it, or maybe they need someone to explain it to them in a different way. Maybe they just need some one-on-one that they can't get from teachers who have 30 other kids to teach. Sometimes, though, they just get overwhelmed.

Particularly with very intensive subjects, such as foreign languages or learning new vocabulary, working with a student for several hours will almost guarantee that everything after the first hour will be going through one ear and out the other. Most kids, even those with no attention problems, can have trouble processing a load of information thrown at them all at once--which is exactly what a three-hour session can do. They need time to process the new information and learn it before they learn anything new.

So do your child a favor and schedule several one-hour sessions; both your kid and the tutor could use a break.

5. You think every tutor is interchangeable.

Even within an area, for instance, English, there are a variety of teaching styles and specialties. A tutor could be an English tutor with a specialty in helping elementary students with reading, or college students write their papers. They could have backgrounds in helping students with disabilities or ESL students.

No two tutors are alike.

Beyond that, I met several parents who didn't understand the importance of building a relationship with a student. If you constantly shop around for tutors, exchanging them out every time you find a better "deal", you're not doing your child any favors. We have to build a relationship with the student to figure out what areas they're struggling with, or how they learn, and to build a relationship of trust and respect.

When I work with a student over a long period of time, I can see what the problem areas are and tailor lessons not only specifically to address those problems, but also to appeal to them. They feel comfortable interrupting me and telling me when they're not getting something, which is invaluable and helps me to help them.

Exchanging tutors isn't doing anyone favors--each tutor is going to have to relearn your kid's strengths and weaknesses, and by the time they do, you'll probably have hired someone else.

But the one good reason why you should hire a tutor is this:

1. You need one-on-one teaching, extra time, or want someone to explain the material to you in a way you understand.

Tutoring is not about doing someone else's work for them or just regurgitating the same lesson in hopes that this time, it will stick. It's about working with a student, getting to know them, and trying to frame the information in a way that will make sense to them. Sometimes it takes multiple times or ways.

I had one student who could not keep vocabulary in his head; even if we had just gone over a word, he would immediately forget the meaning the next minute. I finally found out he was active in sports and worked with him to find out he learned kinesthetically; that is, he learned by doing, rather than hearing or seeing. I had him look up and write down words he was unfamiliar with every time he came across one. Eventually, he learned them and retained them better than when he was just looking it up each time.

Teachers have to pick the best way to give information to their class and reach the most people at once; however, that can leave some students out in the cold, who just don't understand the material. That's when a tutor comes in handy.

Also, if you don't understand the material, that is completely okay. We all run across things that don't make sense to us (it takes me about 49% longer than everyone else to wrap my head around math problems, for instance), and there's no shame in admitting that or hiring someone to help you with it. If you are willing to put in the time and effort to work with someone instead of asking them to do your work for you, then hire a tutor.

On behalf of all tutors: we'll love you for it, promise.


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