What makes a successful tutor?

What is a tutor?

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, a tutor is a person charged with the instruction and guidance of another. However, to be a quality and successful tutor, the definition needs to be further developed to encompass attributes such as empathy, respect, and a love for teaching.

Below are a few things that make a successful tutor beyond the concepts of instruction and guidance.

The most obvious requirement for a successful tutor is to be an expert in the content area they are tutoring. A tutor isn’t just showing a student the steps needed to complete a problem or how to write a term paper but rather teaching the individual how to critically answer questions and use the skill set in a real-life setting. 

  • For example: A qualified math tutoring isn’t showing the steps to solve an Algebra problem and then letting the student solve a similar problem. A quality tutor guides the student to the correct answer through a series of questions or tasks where the student learns not only how to solve the problem but also the reason and relevance behind the skill.

If a tutor isn’t qualified in the subject area, they will not be able to guide the student to the correct conclusions or develop a meaningful curriculum. So remember, if your child needs help with Advanced Calculus or Chemistry, try to find someone who knows the materials and the proper way to teach the content to your child.   

A tutor must encompass a love for learning and teaching.

A good tutor will not use the entire learning session to simply work on homework and projects assigned during out of school hours; a quality tutor will help the student to become an independent learner and critical thinker. They will make the learning process personalized and provide real-life applications so learning is relevant. A quality tutor will also ask the right types of questions, teach a student how to study and plan, and provide scaffolding so the child learns how to think and be analytical. With this skill set, a student can learn not only the materials for the test/class but also know how to become a self-sufficient learner.  

A tutor must also be able to build a natural and personal relationship with each student they teach.

To do this, the tutor will need to be empathetic, patient, and respectful to both the learning process and the child. A tutor must approach learning with a flexible and fluid style where the focus is on 1) understanding a child’s strengths and interests 2) minimizing weaknesses when it comes to both educational and emotional goals and 3) creating a relevant curriculum that is interesting. If a tutor can facilitate this “safe space” for learning, growth will occur naturally and an independent learner will develop with each tutoring session. 

A  successful tutor will also be able to listen and communicate: listen to the student’s needs and communicate to all parties involved (student, parent, teacher) about goals, curriculum strengths/weaknesses, and relevant avenues to track growth. The communication process must be a collaborative one where:

  • The student understands all goals and the steps needed to be successful
  • The parent understands what is being taught and how the goal is tracked (data points) 
  • The teacher communicates gaps in learning when it comes to classroom lessons and exams 
  • The tutor scaffolds the learning process by listening to all individuals involved, reports completed goals to parents/student/teacher and modifies the curriculum to meet the needs of the student when weaknesses present themselves.  

If all of these avenues are addressed, communication will be a constant/open line that will build trust and respect. 

With these four elements discussed, it is easy to see that a tutor isn’t just someone who teaches or instructs. A tutor is an individual that makes learning relevant and works closely with the family, student, and teachers to create a positive experience that is “safe” and consistent.   


If you need help identifying signs that your child needs a tutor, take a look at the following blog: “6 signs your child needs a tutor.”  

Also, take a look at “4 Steps to Hire the right tutor” and “How can a tutor help your child?” for more information. 

How can MINDSPIRE help with your student?

At MINDSPIRE, we provide tutoring and test prep that is tailored to specific learning styles and individual needs. If you are interested in getting a tutor for any standardized exam, contact us or give us a call at 844-537-PREP (7737).

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