Christian’s Top 8 Traits I Look for in a Test Prep Tutor has got me thinking about the qualities I strive to embody in my work as a tutor. Here, in no particular order, are the 10 Commandments of Tutoring!


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I. Be friendly and care. Treat your students like little siblings.

Empathy is the most important trait of a tutor, hands-down. People’s minds work more freely when they’re happy and comfortable, and feel like their tutor genuinely likes them and cares about their success. If a student feels judged or talked-down to, chances are they’ll put up a wall and not learn. Nothing makes a tutor happier than seeing a student beginning to “get it.”


II. Be a guide, not a savior. Don’t do the work for them.

Good tutors don’t just give the answer if the student claims to have “no idea.” Good tutors ask the student to walk them through their thought process, or they suggest a few possible approaches and encourage the student to try them.


III. Don’t assume the student “gets it” until they demonstrate it.

Nodding the head, not asking questions, even saying “yes” when asked if they understand—none of these are surefire signs of comprehension. When a student has mastered a concept, he or she will be able to not only describe it, but do it.


IV. On time is 10 minutes early.

Tutors are well acquainted with Murphy’s Law and arrive at their lessons early as often as is possible. They know that being early is a sign of respect for themselves and their students.


V. Ask more questions than you answer.

Socrates was one of the best teachers in history, because he asked the right questions. When tutors recognize that every answer gestures toward another question, they’re able to cultivate a habit of questioning and engagement with questions in their students.


VI. Know the material.

Tutors know their stuff. When something (inevitably) crops up that they don’t know, they make a point to investigate it and report back.


VII. Be humble.

Wisdom is nothing if not tempered by humility. The student is there to participate in a dialogue with an equally imperfect being. Pride always comes before the fall. Tutors never brag. They never take the credit.


VIII. Don’t get frustrated.

“Water off a duck’s back” should be a tutor’s mantra. When a student doesn’t understand a concept, or is taking a long time to respond, or seems bored, or isn’t trying, the tutor should always be patient and kind. Perhaps the tutor should try a different approach, or wait for the student to make a discovery.


IX. Don’t go too quickly.

A good tutor is able to gauge the correct pace at which to teach. It never hurts to slow down to ensure a concept is mastered, but flying right by a concept risks sacrificing accuracy for speed, leaving the student behind in the dust.


X. Inspire a love of learning.

The best tutors have an infectious enthusiasm for their subject matter and for learning itself. They love tutoring because they love learning, and they learned to love learning from teachers who inspired them to become masters of their own education.

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