How I Began Tutoring

After my post about supply teaching last week I have had a few people contact me and ask about tutoring.  Now, I do not claim to be an expert, I have made plenty of mistakes and I am sure I will make many more.  But here are a few tips to get you started, if you want to!  It is simply what has worked for me

To begin with, you need to decide your business/ teaching ethos.  In my case it is that children learn through play and I use a play-based approach as often as possible.  I also adore outdoor learning and use this.  This is what makes me different to others and how I market myself.  Yours will be something different, something personal to you.  Use it!

Resources – do not go out and buys loads!  I have a lot of materials from being a teacher for years but there is only so much I want to and can carry.  My basic kit is a good pencil case, a decent mini white board and pens, a small dictionary, dice with various numbers of sides and games which I can print or adapt.  I also provide jotters and folders but you do not need to.

Pricing – do your homework here. Sites like Tutor Hunt, Tutorful etc can help. I started off setting my price way too low and slowly upped it as I took on new clients.  You are under selling yourself in setting your rates too low.  I strangely found that business increased when my prices did.  As the wise Mr Specter once said, you do not pay the plumber for banging the pipes, you pay him for knowing where to bang.  People may try and haggle your price but that is your professional worth, do not allow this.

Tutor Space – you need to decide whether to tutor from home (if you do then you must update your insurance policy) or from theirs (update your car insurance policy).  Both have pros and cons.  I do a mixture of both and it works for me. If you are tutoring at your home, you need a dining table or desk. If at their home, you really do not need much at all.  I would suggest that if you are tutoring at someone else’s’ home for the first time you think about safety.  Let someone know who you are meeting, where and ensure they call you are a time close to the appointment ending to make sure you are ok – almost like internet dating!

My final tip here would be not tutoring for people who are too close to you, i.e. family or close friend’s children. I found it could make things awkward and just wasn’t worth the stress.  A little distance is a good thing.

 

Once you have done all that, it is time to get the ball rolling, get out there and start letting people know who you are!

Advertising – I have found word of mouth to be my biggest form of advertising. I started by posting up on Facebook that I was starting tutoring and got my friends to share it. It really was that simple.  I also created a profile on Tutorful and whilst they do take a cut, it was a good way for me to start.

I have a Facebook page for the tutoring and find that generates some business, especially when I share it on local groups pages.  A quick search with local town names on Facebook will give you that. It is worth seeking permission from an admin of the groups to make sure you can post and know how regularly you can post.

I have a website, though it isn’t something you need early on.  It has generated minimal work for me, but it is nice to have and does give the business a professional appearance.

I have not used google/ facebook or any other forms of paid advertising as folk say they get minimal return.

I also have both Twitter and Instagram accounts but they are more about brand awareness.

You can also use sites like Tutor Hunt where the parent pays for your details or Tutorful where the site takes a cut. It really depends on your area which works best.

Timing for Advertising – I love my Facebook page as the analytics let me see when best to post as most members online. Generally, though, I find the start of a term gets some new business but just before and after parent’s nights I have got lots.
So you have found your first student, what next…
Once you find your first student you need some paper work.  I always give my Terms and Conditions beforehand but take a copy for them to sign when I am there.  I also have a contact form, so I have their details, I usually email this before my first appointment with them.

My first session is all about building a relationship with the child and the family.  I will play a few learning games with the child and chat to them about their likes and dislikes both in and out of school.  I might run a wee test to assess their abilities and then feedback to the adult.  My first appointment with a child usually takes around 1hr 30 min but I will only charge them for the hour.  That extra time is invaluable to me as the weeks progress whilst working with them.

I tend to make termly plans for each pupil, this is quick and easy and you find a format that works for you.

 

Moving forward…

Once you are tutoring regularly you need to think of a few more things.  Though, you may wish to do these before you start.

I have a great accountant who does my books for me, it means I do not need to stress about tax returns.  He is worth his weight in gold!  It doesn’t take me long each week to update my financials.

I also have an amazing insurance agent.  She has been a gem, as my business has evolved it has been very handy to have someone I can check with to ensure I am covered.  She also got me a better deal that I could have got myself – believe me I checked!

There are some great tutor groups on Facebook where you can get advice and support.  I recently set up the Scottish Private Tutors page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/440958926349136/ ) but there are others out there too.

 

My final thoughts…

Taking the leap into tutoring can be daunting but it can really be worth it.  You can make it what you want, from a single session a week for extra spending money to a full-time business.  I know it can be terrifying though and to that end I am happy to meet folks in the central belt for a cuppa and chat to those elsewhere.  I was terrified before I started and I love tutoring now.  For me, it is the best bits of teaching without the stresses!

 

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What is Growth Mindset?

In tutoring we will often study a single subject area, it might be maths or literacy or something else altogether.  Often, for a myriad of reasons, the children I work with find this area of study difficult, and this can lead to negative feelings.  These feelings can lead to a child switching off to a subject.  Deciding it is hard and they are not good at it and never will be.  This is when I find myself suggesting to parents that we supplement this specific subject area with that of growth mindset.  But what is growth mindset, why do I think it is important and what have I learned myself from it.

In basic terms, Growth Mindset is the understanding of how the brain works and how our attitudes make an impact on our learning.  Carol Dweck discovered that mental attitude and our self-beliefs made a real difference to levels of achievement.  It turns mistakes into a positive tool to learn from.  Children learn that reflecting on and learning from mistakes helps neurons connect, strengthens existing neural connections, which in turn helps us learn.  This is not only achieved through reflection but also through using a range of strategies, asking questions, practicing skills and developing good habits.  This is what is classed as a growth mindset.  The interesting things is that these are all things that we naturally do within tutoring sessions.

This image illustrates perfectly the difference between a growth and fixed mindset:

growth mindset

It is important to know though that whilst we talk about a growth and fixed mindset, and we would like every child to develop a growth mindset, it is not a destination to be reached or an aim to achieved.  It is in fact a journey and we need to continuously reflect and improve to help us maintain momentum on the journey.  This, I think, is the hard bit.  To keep on trying when things are tricky takes determination, tenacity and self-belief.

So why do I think this is important? Today, I worked with a young lad who was confident with the 4 times table and answered 4×7 almost instantly.  He was willing to give it go and any answers he had not memorised he was willing to try and work out using his learnt strategies.  He was showing a strong growth mindset.  However, we are working on all the times tables, so we then switched to the 7 times table.  Instantly he said he found this one difficult and explained he hadn’t practised, he showed a fixed mindset.  I reassured him, and we began the questions.  Quickly we got to 4×7.  He couldn’t answer it this time.  What was the difference?  There was none!  The equations were the exact same, the digits in the same place, my approach the same.  So, the difference was not in the work but in his attitude to the work.  He approached the 4 times table with a can-do attitude, feeling confident.  The 7 times table began with him saying he could not do it, and guess what, he couldn’t.  Conversely, when I told him to stop and breathe and told him not to worry as he knew this, when he looked at it again he could work out the answer easily.  His attitude made all the difference.

From working one to one with these children I have discovered a few things about growth mindset.  For me, it is important that children understand some things in life are hard.  This is a fact.  This is ok.  But it is not only them who encounter hard things, adults do too!  I will often discuss my university studies, my difficulties and achievements with the children.  I also encourage their parents to engage in similar conversations about their lives.  It is amazing to see the realisation dawn on a child that everyone finds things hard sometimes.  You can easily do this on a subtle level.  Discuss your day with your child, your successes and any difficulties.  How did the successes and difficulties make you feel?  How did you over come any difficulties?  What would you do differently next time?  Ask them about their day and a similar way.

I have also started to recognise when my own mindset moves more towards being fixed.  This is often when I am finding things tough in my own studies, like the children find their specific subject area tough.  Understanding how my mindset works is helping me develop my own strategies and keep on trying.  This in turn is helping me achieve great results within my Masters.  It is healthy and hugely rewarding to finally excel at something which was tricky.  And, this is always the aim in tutoring, to help children succeed in something they find tricky!

 

If you would like to know more about Growth Mindset please look up https://www.mindsetworks.com/science/Default

or check out the TED talk by Carol Dweck at https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve