What Makes a Good Math Tutor?
I have been a maths tutor in Singapore for almost a decade and I am dedicated to continually improve my efficiency as a tutor and a coach. After all these years of tutoring mathematics, I have formed my own ideas and impressions on what makes a great educator. The following is a list of some of the traits of a good math tutor.
1) Outstanding tutors HOLD HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR THEIR STUDENTS.
Having witnessed the transformation of many students who were deemed “slow” into top achievers, great educators do not believe that a student’s intelligence is fixed. Most students are under-performing because they are held back by their limiting self-beliefs and the low expectations from the people around them. On the other hand, great educators are confident that every student has the capacity to grow significantly and they clearly communicate the high expectations they have for their students. Their high expectations and confidence empower the students, thereby raising their students’ performance significantly.
2) Top Tutors UNDERSTANDS THAT MISTAKES AND FAILURES ARE VALUABLE TEACHING OPPORTUNITIES.
Learning is most effective when students are relaxed, comfortable with challenging problems and not afraid of making mistakes. As such, good math tutors give their students the room to experiment and permission to make mistakes. A good tutor will patiently give corrective feedback when a student makes a mistake and will never display his anger and impatience when students mess up or fail. They teach their students that winners are not people who never fail but people who never quit.
3) Great Tutors UNDERSTAND INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN THEIR STUDENTS.
An experienced tutor appreciates that each student in class is different in terms of attitude, personality, rate of understanding, sensitivity, strengths, weaknesses and needs. These tutors would keenly observe every student and spend time to get to know each student’s individual differences and style. They would tailor their tutoring approach and treat each student in a way that maximizes his/her effectiveness. In addition, they understand that students are more than just students and they really care about each student as a person. Excellent tutors take interest in their students’ life outside of the classroom. They establish strong rapport with students and develop open, trusting relationships.
4) The best tutors ARE FLEXIBLE.
Great math tutors are flexible in their teaching approaches and are continuously looking for better and simpler ways to reach each student. When a student struggles to learn a mathematical concept, a good math tutor will not blame it on the student’s incompetence or simply classify it as a “learning disability”. Instead, he would change his approach and keep trying and inventing new approaches until he finds the best way to reach the student. Rigid coaches who dictates that his/her approach is the best and only approach are definitely less effective than those who are flexible and creative.
5) Great Tutors ARE EXPERTS IN THE SUBJECTS THAT THEY TEACH.
This is a fundamental criterion of any tutor or profession. A responsible math tutor needs to have a deep and comprehensive understanding of the domain that he is teaching. A tutor who does not have a clear understanding of the material he is teaching would do more harm than good to the students. In addition to knowing the subject, a good tutor should also possess thorough knowledge of the curriculum and the syllabus. For example, a good secondary school math tutor should be able to clearly differentiate the requirements between O-Level Mathematics, N-Level Mathematics and IP/IB stream Mathematics.
6) Better tutors always BEGIN WITH AN END IN MIND.
Before every maths tuition class, a good math tutor should be prepared and have in mind the concepts that each of his students would learn by the end of the class. It is surprisingly easy to drift away from the important things during class and having an end goal in mind will allow every class to stay on course. Having an end goal in mind also allows the tutor to pace each student and ensure that every maths tuition class is a fruitful one.
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