Here are some guidelines on tutoring younger children. They will help you to leave a good impression on both the pupil and his parents. It will also help you deal with difficult situations.
1) Be punctual. This is your first possibility to show them you’re reliable – or not. It’s better to be a few minutes early, but do not come late.
2) Be prepared. For the first lesson, you have to know which questions to ask to learn more about the difficulties your pupil has. Check the last class test, or ask where he sees his difficulties. Bear in mind that his version might often differ from the version the parents will tell you. The pupil knows better where his problems come from. If he tells you his teacher cannot explain or doesn’t like him, take him seriously! It might be the truth. Give him a test to find out where exactly his difficulties are. Always have exercises prepared for the lessons.
3) Watch how the parents treat your pupil. Some parents scold their children excessively. They see the mistakes and flaws but never the achievements or skills. If you notice such behavior, be careful. When you witness the parents shouting at their children, don’t step into the argument. Try to talk to the parents later on, in a calm, matter-of-fact way. Explain to them that shouting will not help their children get better but might easily turn out the opposite. It will demotivate the children if they are told they are bad or stupid. Tell the parents what their children did well after each lesson. Encourage the pupils during tutoring to make them notice what they can do. Should the parents’ behavior not change, talk to someone who is experienced in such matters and ask him what else you could or should do. However, should you ever witness physical violence against children, talk to an expert at once and get help!
4) Always remember you are there to help the pupil. It does not help him in any way if you let him have his own way every lesson or if you just do exercises he already can do very well. It does not help, either, if you try to force him to do things, or if you tell or show him how stupid he is. Never betray your thoughts in his presence if you really think him stupid. You might think it, but he must not know it!
5) You are the teacher; you are in control of the lesson. If you happen to have a troublemaker as pupil who tries to get the better of you, keep calm. Never, ever shout at him or insult him. There are other ways. Let him choose between the task you want him to do and another task that would help him, too, but which he does not like.
6) Have him show you every test. Then you are able to judge for yourself where his problems were. You can find out if he had problems with the subject or if there was not enough time for him. If he made several minor and rather stupid mistakes, he was probably lacking concentration for one reason or another. Find out the reason, then.
7) Find the right learning strategy. I have known pupils who knew their stuff when practicing for a test but then failed completely. Logically, their grades were disastrous. However, it was not due to a lack of understanding but to nervousness. I asked them to describe their normal learning behavior. As guessed, they all learned and reviewed their stuff until shortly before writing the test. It is only normal that they were that nervous. They had gotten the feeling that they didn’t know all the important stuff and this resulted in their forgetting all they knew when taking the test due to nervousness. I then told them to stop studying the day before the next test. They were allowed to read through their notes again, once, but after that, they had to close their books, put their notes away and tell themselves: “I have done all I can to prepare. I know most of the stuff and I’m going to do fine tomorrow.” What shall I say, it worked! They remembered what they knew.
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