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Choosing a private tutor

Newcomer families to Canada often seek out extra afterschool help for their children so they can succeed in their new academic curriculum. As a parent, this may be the first time you are considering hiring a private tutor for your child. This article will help you not only with the process of finding a tutor, but the process of selecting a tutor.

The most likely school subjects that parents will hire private tutors for are:

  • English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • Language Arts
  • French
  • History, and
  • Social studies.

Your child may need more support completing long writing assignments for Language Arts, history, and social studies especially. Canadian schools are particular about using proper citations and submitting bibliographies in English. The tutor should help your child develop their research skills.

Some parents may be open to trial sessions with several different tutors before settling on one that will be long-term. A long-term private tutor will typically work with a student for one to three years. After that, the student will move up the academic ladder. At that point, it may be necessary to find a different tutor more suited for the student’s age group.

Parents must consider many factors when seeking a good tutor. This person will become your child’s instructor, mentor, and friend. And, you will have to work closely with the tutor to provide your child with the absolute best education. Here are five important factors to consider:

1. Tutoring Centres Versus Freelance Tutors

Afterschool tutoring centres such as Oxford Learning and Kumon are popping up everywhere all over Canada. There is a great demand for them. They have the advantage of being a social centre where students can interact with each other, and parents can converse while their children are in class. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, this advantage does not currently apply to most of these centres. Most classes offered by these centres are now conducted online.

Another major disadvantage of tutoring centres is that they will often ask parents to pay for groups of sessions rather than by-the-lesson. For example, a parent may have to pay for ten sessions in advance and ensure your child attends one session per week for ten weeks.

If you would prefer to pay by-the-lesson, it’s more convenient to find a freelance tutor on a site like Kijiji or through word-of-mouth. This way, you can negotiate the time and the hourly wage directly with the tutor rather than through the centre. 

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2. Locality and Availability of the Private Tutor 

Parents should consider local tutors unless the hourly wage you pay covers extra expenses a tutor may incur such as:

  • travel expenses, or
  • part of their Wi-Fi for online tutoring.

Keep in mind that after school tutors are often graduate students or teachers looking to earn extra income outside of their regular working hours. So their availability may change. Or, they may occasionally need to cancel due to conflicts with their regular jobs or other commitments.

Parents must remain flexible. However, the tutor is responsible for giving ample warning if they cannot attend a session. A private tutor who frequently cancels sessions is not a reliable tutor committed to providing your child with consistent support. In this case, it’s wise to explore hiring a different tutor. 

3. Experience and Credentials 

Parents should seek out tutors that have experience working with their child’s age group. Here is one mistake parents often make: they focus too much on a tutor’s academic background and degrees. As a teacher myself, I can confirm that a person’s store of knowledge isn’t enough to qualify them as an effective instructor.

Any educator must also be prepared to face the unique challenges of working with young students who are impatient, frustrated, shy, unconfident, easily distracted, etc. They must know how to properly handle certain situations, such as when a child feels overwhelmed by their schoolwork and starts getting upset. I recommend parents consider tutors who have also done childcare jobs in the past, such as babysitting and camp counselling. Intelligence combined with life experiences and common sense produces the best tutors. 

4. Personality and Teaching Style

Some private tutors are upbeat and fun. They make every lesson a game for the student. Some private tutors are strict and no-nonsense. They will focus more on instilling discipline in the student, to prepare for the tough, competitive future ahead of them. And, some tutors fall somewhere in-between. To find the right tutor for your child, do trial one-hour sessions with several different tutors. After each session, ask your child the following questions: 

  • Did you feel comfortable with this tutor? 
  • Did this tutor listen to you and let you ask them questions?
  • What did you learn during this session? 
  • Would you like to work with this tutor again? 

Take notes and keep track of your child’s responses. After trying out several tutors, choose the one who best connected with your child and complemented your child’s personality. Make sure your child is involved in the selection process. 

Choosing a private tutor

5. Off-Hours Work and Respecting Boundaries of Private Tutors 

As previously stated, many private tutors do afterschool teaching for extra income, on top of another job. So it’s important that parents respect this. Avoid making demands on the tutors that are outside of the tutor’s work margin. For example, parents should not call or email their child’s tutor late at night to ask them questions about their child’s homework or progress. Tutors who feel that their student’s parents do not respect their personal boundaries will end the working relationship. Your child could lose a good tutor this way. So always be mindful of your level of courtesy towards their hired instructors. 

Parents want their children to receive the best educational help. And, they also want their child’s homework and study time to be as productive as possible. This contributes to your child leading a balanced and less stressful life. Choosing the right tutor to achieve these goals is a major decision that takes consideration, experimentation, and open-mindedness. Combining these three elements, you’ll find the right private tutor for your child.

For more information, tools, and free webinars about living in Canada visit our Settling in Canada resource page. We’ll help you to settle in Canada successfully!