Posted by Jon | Jan 10 2016

7 Crucial Things to Remember before Your First Private Tutoring Session

How to ace your first private tutoring session

You’ve registered with Tuition House as a tutor, a parent found you in the search page, and you’re both happy to start tutoring. Fantastic! You’ve just got a private tutoring student.

If this is your first ever private tutoring student, you might be feeling a little daunted. That’s normal, everyone feels that way. But with this post I’m going to help you feel a little more at ease, by helping you get prepared.

1. Present yourself well

Smart dress isn’t necessary for private tutoring. But your tracksuit bottoms and smelly t-shirt aren’t exactly suitable either.

This might go without saying, but make sure you look presentable on your first day of tutoring. Treat it as you would a first day at a new full-time job.

A t-shirt and jeans and any other combination of casual wear are completely fine and appropriate. It’s more important that you know the subject you’re about to teach of course, but it’s important to look presentable too.

2. Bring an A4 refill pad

I’m a maths tutor, and in my tuition sessions I go through lots of paper. At the end of each session I give the student the work I’ve written down so they can use them later for revision.

I usually just buy a decent A4 refill pad of paper and use that in my sessions. You can get them on offer sometimes – I recently bought 5 pads of 100 sheets of paper from Wilko for 50p each!

In your lessons, make sure you properly date any sheets of paper you use and clearly mark the title of the work done that session.

Also remember to number each sheet in order if you’re using multiple sheets of paper! I find this especially important in a subject like maths.

When you do this, also give your student a folder to put the sheets in. You can just pick up a cheap multipack of manilla wallets. Your student will be grateful and the parents will be impressed too.

While I do personally prefer using an A4 refill pad, you can alternatively use a school workbook if you want.

If you do this, write “[Your name] Private Tuition” on the front cover, give your student the workbook after the first session. This will be seen as a generous gesture by the student, and it also means it stays at the student’s house so it won’t be forgotten!

3. Establish the tutoring details

You probably already took this step when the tutee first made their tuition request, but we strongly encourage tutees and tutors to make their own private arrangements. Both parties are free to negotiate their own terms.

When you’re both happy and you’ve got each other’s contact details, be prompt in making the first contact. Just say hello, and that you’re delighted that you managed to come to an agreement.

Now to agree on the ‘Whats’ and the ‘Wheres’. Make sure you’re both clear and in agreement over the following details:

  • How often you’ll do the sessions (99% of times once a week)
  • What time of day you’ll do the sessions
  • Where the tuition will take place (99% of times at the student’s home)

These are the important facts to agree on, so make sure they’re times you’re able to make!

Many parents are flexible about sessions, so if you need to change the regular timing of sessions, don’t be afraid to ask.

This also feeds into point #5 below.

4. Revise your subject

You’re hopefully at least a few educational levels higher than the student, so this part should be alright for you, and quite enjoyable.

But it’s important that you are familiar with the subject matter taught in the GCSE or A-Level that the student is studying at school.

Ask the student which exam board their school is using for the subject (e.g. Edexcel, AQA, OCR), and look at the specifications for the subject on the exam board’s website. Make sure you’re familiar with all of the topics.

I recommend taking these steps to get re-acquainted with the subject material:

  • Do past exam papers on the subject, with the same board the student’s school is using
  • Dig up your old school notes on the subject and skim through them
  • Dig up your old textbooks (if you have any) and go through the exercises

You might be worried about your student asking a question you don’t know the answer to, or getting stuck on an exercise question. Don’t worry, this is normal. I sometimes get stuck on a maths problem, and I’m just honest when I don’t immediately know the answer to the maths problem. There are bound to be one or two odd moments. As long as you’re clearly comfortable with the core of the subject, the student and parents won’t mind.

Doing your best to keep on top of your subject will put your mind at ease. You probably already enjoy your subject, so you should find this step the most fun!

5. Meet up in person before the lesson (optional)

This isn’t absolutely necessary but I find that a preliminary meeting with the parents at their home helps you to get to know each other better and build trust and rapport.

Have a conversation about the student’s education, what their grades are, and the subject topics they particularly need help with. Show an interest in the student and how they’re doing at school and what their goals are.

…and a nice cup of tea never hurts!

While this does help, if the student’s parents don’t suggest it themselves, don’t feel obligated to suggest a meeting yourself. A quick phone call before the lesson is perfectly fine to establish the key details and start building a rapport.

6. Bring any proof documents or references (optional)

If the student’s parents specifically asked for proof of a DBS check or some other references, make sure you bring them! We don’t verify if tutors on the site have actually had these checks or not, so don’t lie, it’s up to you and the tutee.

In my experience this is rare. Most parents are happy to hire a tutor without a background check, especially if you’re going to be tutoring in their home.

This will sound controversial but as a male tutor I have only been pressed for references or documents by the student or their parents when the student is female. It is a strong yet understandable pattern I have noticed in my years of tutoring.

They may ask to meet you in person before any actual lessons start. A face-to-face meeting helps both tutor and tutee to get to know each other better, and it helps to serve as a meeting to establish the student’s specific needs, the subject topics you’ll go over, and the dates and times for the sessions.

I personally have never been asked to verify or provide proof of my academic qualifications.

7. Turn up early (mandatory)

I always turn up at least ten minutes before my private tutoring sessions are scheduled to begin.

Turning up early ensures you have time to set up, and it gives a great impression to the student and their parents. A bit of small-talk is also nice before the session.

This goes without saying, but never be late to a tutoring session! If you have a legitimate reason, contact the student or parents and let them know in advance. They’ll be fine with it as long as it doesn’t become a regular occurrence.


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