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Should I get a tutor?

“Education is the kindling of a flame not the filling of a vessel,” Socrates.

We see constantly in the news about what a booming business private tutoring has become, but this is not a modern phenomenon. Private tutors have existed for as long as education has; from governesses to Socrates’ mentorship of Plato. In fact, for centuries, individual tutorials have been a key part of education at Oxford and Cambridge: Britain’s universally acclaimed universities. When all other universities expanded and started to use a lecture system for their students’ learning, Oxford and Cambridge kept the personal tutorials. In 1968 Professor Will G. Moore of St John’s College, Oxford University stated that the “individual focus and unique ability to foster dialogue, argumentation, and independent thought outweighed any criticism [of this system]”. This is not just relevant at a degree level but the ability to evaluate and discuss areas of learning can solidify thought and lead to a greater understanding. Furthermore, as Socrates stated in the opening quote to this article education is not just about giving facts but is about developing ideas of thought and consequently, creating an interest in the subject. Ultimately, this is why many parents today look towards personal tutors to create individual learning plans focussed around their child rather than the average needs of thirty children. Here we will look at some reasons for considering a private tutor.

More than Just Homework

In schools today, homework is a central part of learning, offering extra chances for children to practice concepts learnt in class without the support of others. For some children, the time spent working it out for themselves is a great opportunity to show that they have understood, but for other children extra help is still needed and this extra help is often taken on by parents. In today’s world parents are under increasing stress and longer working hours make homework help a difficult thing to find time for, which may lead to the idea of a tutor. Of course, tutors can help and give support for homework, which may be important for some children, but they can also do a lot more than this. A good tutor has a working knowledge of the national curriculum and what children should be learning at each level. They can allow extra time and support to go through areas at a greater depth than they do in school. In some cases, high ability students can be pushed beyond their learning level something which is often outside of school guidelines. The one-to-one attention from an adult can often allow the student to ask more questions, explore ideas in a new light, and build up an interest for a subject which they may find very difficult without that extra support.

Builds Confidence

Children often hate a subject because they feel they are no good at it. There is nothing worse than trying to work through something that you don’t understand - it is tedious and boring. We have probably all experienced that feeling when you have worked really hard on something only to get a bad mark or lots of questions wrong; it makes us feel dejected, and over time it can lead to disliking the subject. Sometimes, all children need is a helping hand and a bit of confidence that they do know what they are doing. This praise and a sense of achievement can turn what was previously an uninteresting subject into your child’s favourite. Furthermore, the extra support and knowledge that the child is receiving can help them take their new found confidence to the classroom. A tutor will spend time getting to know your child, knowing where their weaknesses are and building skills as well as confidence in those areas.

Prevent Children Falling Behind

In a classroom, a certain amount of time is put aside for a topic and then the class will move on to a different area. In some cases, this may not be enough time for a particular child to grasp the concept and, in the future, leave that child at a disadvantage. Although intervention by the school may be put in place many children fall through the gaps particularly if it is just one area of a subject that they don’t understand (for example a child who is generally good at maths but cannot get their head around angles). A tutor should be able to locate these areas, either through subject tests or the child’s admissions and spend dedicated one-to-one time working on these areas at your child’s pace, in order to ensure that the child continues to reach their yearly targets.

Helps Children When Parents Can’t

There are many reasons why parents find it difficult to help their children with work at home. The most common reason expressed by parents is frustration. It is very easy to get frustrated with your own child when they are making the same mistakes or struggling in a particular area. A situation like this often leads to stress for both the child and the adult, arguments and a sense of dread for the next homework session. In some situations, a lack of teaching expertise may cause a difficulty in explaining difficult problems, which can also lead to annoyance from either the parent or the child. Parents may find it difficult to find an appropriate time to work with their children at home. This is particularly common in the modern world where parents can work long hours in stressful jobs and homework help is relegated to near the bottom of a list of chores. For secondary school children especially, it can be difficult for parents to help in certain subjects, if it is not a subject that they have retained to memory, used in later life, or was confident in at school. Whatever the reason that parents struggle, tutors can help children and take the pressure off the parents.

Exam Expertise

A good tutor will be an experienced teacher with specialist knowledge and expertise in the area they are teaching. In older children who are sitting exams, tutors can provide specialist expertise in exam boards, mark schemes, assessment objectives, and have experience and knowledge in what exam boards expect. This is crucial in helping children to achieve their best exam results.

Despite all of this tutoring is not for every student. There are hundreds of tutors and each has their individual way of working, this means that they may not work for your child and sometimes the first tutor you try is not the one. Tutoring can be a massive expense so it is important to do it for the right reasons. If a child hates a subject getting a tutor in that subject may create an hour torture for the child and in turn the tutor. The best results come from children who want to learn. While tutors may prove to be a good tool, if students are unwilling to use them, work for them and gain something from them then it may not be successful. Tutoring is not a miracle cure, it does not secure exam grades, it does not mean that students do not need to revise. Tutoring is a great tool but a student’s achievement should be their own.

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