Should you look into getting a tutor for your teen?
Do they need one?
Will it make any difference?
How do you find a good one?
Do you already have one and want to make sure you’re maximising what your teen is getting out of the sessions?
Or, even if they don’t have one and you have no intention of hiring one, listen in, because I’m going to also be covering all the ways that may well be a perfect decision.
WE WILL COVER:
The critical consideration behind this decision (Hint: This is not about whether tutors are good or bad - it's about finding where your teen's holes are in their 'study-bucket').
Three things to look for in a great tutor.
How to make sure your teen builds the skills to succeed independently in their study.
The key question that'll tell you if a tutor is the best place to put your money and your teen's time.
You’re listening to the Parents of Hardworking Teens Podcast, episode number 12. And if you’ve ever had or currently have a tutor for your teen, if you’re thinking about getting one, or you’ve never used or considered one, then stay tuned because as well as giving you three things to look for in a great tutor, more importantly I’m going to give you the critical question to know if your teen even needs one.
Hey VIPs! How are you? I’m doing fantastic. It’s a beautiful day here and I’m just back from a long dog walk in the sunshine. One of the things I just love about living in QLD is that winter usually feels like it lasts about 3 weeks. But this year, its definitely been more like a solid 3 months, so I’m super happy to see the sun. And honestly, I’m not complaining, I know there has been some crazy weather everywhere this year, the floods in Australia, the heatwave in the UK and across Europe and coming from the UK, it used to be more like 3 weeks when it WASN’T cold and wet, so, winter sunshine is something I just LOVE, so I’m happy. And let’s get into today’s episode all about tutors.
Should you look into getting a tutor for your teen? Do they need one? Will it make any difference? How do you find a good one? Do you already have one and want to make sure you’re maximising what your teen is getting out of the sessions? Or, even if they don’t have one and you have no intention of hiring one, still stay with me, because I’m going to also be covering all the ways that may well be a perfect decision.
Because this topic is something I often get questions about, and I know that many of my 10 Week Grade Transformation students either have had tutors previously or use them currently, Some find it really helpful, some haven’t really gotten what they hoped or wanted out of it, some have them for specific subjects, some have them to just help with their study in general. Some continue with them alongside the 10WGT, or some actually take a 10 wk break from the tutoring while they commit their time, that hour per week and the parent commits their dollars per week to getting the 10WGT training done.
And so, I’m going to use a specific parent email I got a little while ago to base this discussion around and that way, I’m hoping you’ll be able to make any relevant links between their situation and yours with your teen. The email says:
“Hi Katie, I was wondering if I could get your input. We were thinking of getting an English teacher for my son as he's in Year 11 and English is the subject he always struggles with the most. But now after watching your webinar and getting your emails, I'm not sure if he needs a tutor or just better skills for his essays and writing. In your opinion would a tutor be helpful and do you have any advice on how to select a good tutor?
Okay, really it comes down to one key question to figure out whether a tutor will be helpful for him or not. Here's what it depends on (and this is the case for anyone no matter what subjects you’re considering or where your teen is at in their study). You need to think about what your teen is really struggling with. Is it the subject content, or are they struggling with applying that content in the way that essays or exam questions or assessments require?
This is not about whether tutoring is good or bad. This is about finding the weakest link and then strengthening it. Or the part of their study that’s holding them back and filling that gap.
Let’s say, you wanted to improve your fitness for example. We might automatically think of signing up with a PT in a gym, but if you’re training for a marathon, being in a gym lifting weights may not be the best type of training for you. Or you might start to do a daily walk or you might join a boxing class three times a week. You see, it all depends. It depends on what aspects need improving and what sort of events or tasks you want to perform well in.
If you wanted to improve your strength and build muscle, going for a daily walk isn’t really going to help you. It’s not that going for a walk is wrong or can’t help in some way, but low level aerobic exercise isn’t the way to build muscle and strength.
In the case of this student and their English study and assessment, if they are struggling to understand a text - whether that’s a poem, a speech, a novel or a shakespeare play - if they’re not feeling confident in understanding the key concepts, the characterisation or themes, or they struggle to pick out and explain different language features and what they are and how they work, then yes, an English tutor would likely be beneficial to them. And the same goes for if it was any other subject. For example in Maths, if they're struggling to understand the steps and processes or the actual Mathematical concepts and how to do the calculations, then yes I think it can be helpful to have a tutor to help your teen personally and specifically with the specific subject knowledge and their understanding of it. If they aren’t keeping up with the content taught in their Science lessons, or feel left behind, or just aren’t getting the subject content, then a tutor could be good way to deal with that.
So, let’s talk for a moment about what to look for in a tutor, how to select a high quality tutor.
Now, tutoring, unlike teaching, is not regulated. Anyone can put up an ad and offer tutoring.
Now, that can be a positive or a negative depending on how you look at it, but here are my top three things that I would look for in a tutor for your teen. Number one, they need to have a good rapport with your teen. It needs to be someone that they're gonna be comfortable and happy working with so that they are confident in asking questions and talking things through. This will of course make the sessions a lot more positive and enjoyable for your teen, but it’s also essential for the tutor so that they can work at your teen’s pace, identify any gaps in their knowledge and really make sure they’re personalising everything, which is what tutoring is all about .
The second thing is that, in my opinion, they need to be a qualified teacher. Because they need to have the skills to convey their knowledge to your teen in a way that helps them learn it, understand it, and then be able to use it for themselves, independently. Just because someone is great at a subject themselves does not necessarily mean that they are great at teaching it. Teaching teenagers is not the same as learning it yourself. I dare say you already know that!
And actually, there’s a nice link here. Because it's like the study success formula, where we know that just because a student has lots of subject knowledge and understands the content, they are not necessarily skilled in being able to apply it to the way a question is asked in an exam or in an essay title. They need both to be effective and it’s the same for a tutor. They need to be knowledgeable in the subject themselves, and they also need to be skilled in teaching it to your teen so that they can take it on and do it independently. I often see students just working on their homework tasks or doing practise questions with their tutor. Not that there’s necessarily anything inherently wrong with those tasks as such, but more the WAY they are doing them. It’s not quite that the tutor is doing it for them, but more like doing it with them. And the problem with doing it ‘together’ is that it can mean the student feels like they’re getting it, but when it comes to doing it totally by themselves, especially when it comes to exams, they actually aren’t skilled to do it successfully when working totally independently. That’s why really teaching your teen, i them to do everything for themselves, is different to doing questions WITH your teen or working on tasks WITH your teen.
Now, hold on to that point, because we’re going to link back to it in a minute, but before we do, the third thing I would look for in tutor is someone who has external assessment experience; has been external exam marker for an exam board, is a scrutiny or writing panel member, or has experience with assessment or coursework moderation activities. Not just marking these things in school, but externally for an exam board. So that means that they not only know how to teach those concepts to your teen, but they also know what's going to be required and expected of them and how they can work in a way that means they can put the subject content they’re learning across in those assessments, assignments, exams, essays. And I’ll admit that this is probably more of a wish item than an essential, because honestly, finding a tutor who does have examiner experience will be hard, coursework moderation is a little more common, (Funnily enough, there are not that many teachers who put their hand up to do MORE marking or more exam work.) So if you do one that ticks all these boxes, and if by the end of this episode you do think a tutor is what your teen needs, then you should snap their hand off - IF they also have a good rapport with your teen. Because, again, just like the study success formula - that formula has so many layers - even if they have teaching and exam board experience, if your teen just doesn’t get along with them, or doesn’t feel comfortable asking questions, then the partnership won’t be very effective. You really do have to have both. So, at a minimum a good relationship and a qualified teacher, but really, if you want your teen to be able to get the results in exams and assessment that match their ability, then they also really do need to have exam board experience too. Because, I hate to admit it, but until I was four years into teaching and went and did exam marker training for the AQA back in the UK, that was my first ever experience of working with external exam boards, I didn’t really know how to make that happen.
Okay, so those will be the three things that I would be looking for in a tutor and that does bring us nicely back to the really important point I want to share. Which is -to question: is the reason you’re considering a tutor more down to them not understanding the subject content, or is it that they’re just not getting the marks and grades you or they think they could be in their results. If it’s the latter, and let’s say, for English they do actually understand what is going on in the novels they study, they do know what the language features are that they’ve been taught, and they can identify the techniques that an author is using… but they just aren't great at, let's say, writing sophisticated yet succinct essays or how to confidently answer the extended response questions in the exam, then they don’t need more teaching or tutoring in the subject. What they need are the skills and strategies to be able to apply that knowledge. Learning more and more about the themes or the characters, or identifying more and more symbolism or language features in the novel or the poem or writing more and more information in their feature article, or whatever it is that they are studying, is not gonna help them if they cannot put that information and knowledge across in the way that the task requires or the exam question or the essay question is asking. Instead, they need to understand how to break down the question, and how to respond in a way that actually meets the marking criteria.
How do they dissect the question and how do they relay their knowledge that they’ve already built in a way that responds appropriately and accurately and on target to that question? Which quotes or examples are the best ones to choose, how can they analyse they in detail without waffling, or writing more than they need to, and how can they and structure their response in the more effective way?
These are the sorts of skills and training I deliver in the 10 Week Grade Transformation Program and that we apply, action and hone through my Next Level Coaching.
And these are the types of things they might be struggling with in any subject.
In fact, one of my previous 10WGT students mum, Lynda, said at the end of the 10 weeks, I would have had to hire 6 different tutors to get these sorts of results after Chelsea, her Y11 daughter said she could apply this training to everything. And Beth in Y9 went from getting Bs and Cs to getting 7 As. It worked across every subject.
For example, in Maths, they might be getting stumped or overwhelmed by those longer worded questions. They might not be revising in the most effective ways, or not making the most strategic choices over which questions to practise.
In Science they might not be analysing their data in enough detail or not directly relating it back to the research question clearly enough. That all comes down to the 3 steps of analysis. It doesn’t come down to collecting more and more data or learning more and more info from the text book.
In Business studies it might be that they aren’t integrating their case studies well enough or synthesising their research points thoroughly. They likely don’t need more research. They need to analyse and evaluate the research they do have effectively.
And remember I’m not saying that the subject knowledge, the content, isn’t important. Both the knowledge and the application are essential to success. And that’s the key to deciding whether a tutor is the most effective way to boost your teen’s results and confidence. It’s a case of figuring out which is the leakiest hole in your teen’s study bucket. That’s how I like to think of it. That they are diligently trying to fill their bucket, but marks are leaking out the bottom. I should probably do an episode on that. The leaky holes in the study bucket.
And actually that’s a really important point too. Bonus third point - If you’ve ever used a tutor before, and you didn't really see the outcomes or results that you had hoped for or wanted, then maybe it's that application part that’s missing and that needs to be filled. That was the missing piece of the puzzle all along and it was never about the subject content in the first place.
So, if you’ve been considering a tutor for your teen, wherever your teen is at, whatever subjects they are studying and whatever grades and goals they’re going after, that's the key question that you really need to be digging deep on and talking with your teen about: Do they understand the content? Do they understand the concepts? Do they have a pretty good knowledge of the subject and the curriculum? If yes, then they need the skills to be able to apply it to get the grades and the results that they want and that reflect their effort. And if it’s a no; if they say ‘I’m just not getting XY or Z that we're going through in class’, and they're not really keeping up with their classwork, or they're not able to take on board the information that's being taught, then yes a subject tutor will for sure be more beneficial for them.
And if it’s both - then be sure to leverage the subject-based work they’re doing with the tutor by also making sure they have the skills of application in place.
OK. I hope that helps answer that question for anyone who's ever been considering hiring a tutor, or is using a tutor and is wondering how they can maximise the results and benefits.
And in case you couldn’t tell, I love answering parent and student questions, so for these next three months, I’m going to dedicate one podcast episode per month to answering your questions. If you or your teen have a question you’d love me to answer, something short and simple or something more detailed, please email them to email@example.com - put ‘Podcast question’ in the subject line, and I’ll answer you. Either your question will be selected for one of the monthly Q&A episodes, or I’ll write back to you personally with an answer. Either way, I’ll answer it.
So, it’s been a pleasure to hang out with you today, I look forward receiving your Qs, have a fabulous week, and I’ll see you back here on Tuesday for another episode of the Parents of hardworking Teens podcast.