Small Group Tutoring or Private One-to-One, Which is Right for You?

Empty Lecture HallIf you are considering tutoring, or thinking about tutoring as an option for you or your child, this question is one of the most common.

The most institutionalized and common answer is that you should get a personal one-to-one tutor if you can afford it, but the answer may be more challenging when it comes down to the actual application, quality and diversity of content.

Of course, the traditional education system teaches us in group settings. Throw 30 students and a teacher in the classroom, and you have the most economically scalable and effective way to meet educational needs. But, then, why do so many students fall through the cracks of the system? Why do we have an average of 7,000 dropout high school students a day? Many argue it’s because we teach “to the test,”or that there’s an intersectional bias between race, class, and the level of education you are eligible to receive.

Some would say that, sadly, the results are diminishing: the need for tutors is rising, the racial disparity spanning over an ever increasing educational gap is getting harder and harder to breach, and the system is failing those whom it was meant to benefit most. For this reason, the argument goes, establishing a backup system that picks up the slack for the system itself is the cornerstone to a well-educated society, and making an A on that next math test. But how do you know if group tutoring is the right option for you, and how do you know if individual tutoring is worth the extra money? The answer is in the “Why?”.

If applicable, WHY is the traditional classroom setting not working for you?  If you’re looking for a tutor to help you with something you are not taking a class in, this question may not apply to you. (For instance: if you are a middle aged individual looking for guitar lessons, or you need training on how to file your taxes.) However, if you are a student in search of a tutor for a class you are currently enrolled in (or will be enrolled in), it’s a good idea to figure out why your particular classroom setting is not working.

If it’s because there are too many students and you can’t get your questions answered or your instructor is too overwhelmed to offer individual attention, group lessons might give you the opportunity to learn the material and ask the questions you need without an exorbitant price tag. In that situation, perhaps personal instruction is overkill.

On the other hand, if you are falling significantly behind in course material,  have a learning style that is not common, have physical or mental considerations that affect your learning, need to learn hands-on subjects, or are searching for a tutor for a specific skill that you have absolutely no base knowledge of, individual tutoring may be more appropriate, and may even be required.

Have you tried either option before? Do you have any recommendations? If you have tried either option before and know that said option works for you, stick with it. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If you know anyone who has gotten a tutor in the subject area you are searching for, ask them for their preference. Word of mouth can be the most reliable tool, especially if that person can recommend a tutor in your needed niche or if they have a similar learning style. Because of the professional as well as the human side of one-to-one learning, finding an individual mentor or tutor who is the right fit is a numbers game, so internet marketplaces (like LRNGO and others) can improve your chances.

I can’t stress this enough, consider how you learn. I know I’ve already mentioned this twice, but figuring out how you learn and what is and isn’t working is the key. Make sure you communicate your style of learning to your tutor so he/she can tailor their lessons and teaching style. In addition, if there’s a textbook or a curriculum on the subject that fits your goals, outlining these pages and adding online quizzes to test your knowledge and development at certain stages can also be helpful.

Ultimately, deciding if a tutor or a small group class is right for you can be a difficult decision. The traditional education model does not always work for everyone, and having a tutor is in no way a sign of weakness, but instead can be the quickest way to build confidence. The next step is deciding if group tutoring or one to one mentorship is necessary. Ask around, think about what’s working for you and what isn’t, and decide which method will better pander to your way of learning.

At the end of the day, learning how you learn best is often the key to making that A.

 

Emma

Emma Wu is an undergraduate student at Bryn Mawr College pursuing her side passion of oppression theory and educational reformation. She worked as a volunteer art teacher for two years at an underprivileged elementary school in Philadelphia, and serves as a co-teacher for Advancement of Mexican Americans programs across the city of Houston. 

We Are ALL In the Education Business

In the late 90′s, I finally got my first cellphone. I fought it for years.
Learn to Swim from Peers

Photo Credit: Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig

The idea that I would be on the phone during my quiet time or drive time talking (and probably working) did not appeal to me in the least. Sure there were social benefits, but I wanted time to recharge, unplug, meditate, and collect my thoughts.  In short, I wanted down time.  Fast forward to 2014.

Now, it would be almost impossible to live without this device.  Why is that? (Long live down time, rest in peace.)

Ask yourself: have you ever gone a day without your smartphone or mobile device?  If you unplugged from the net and social media, how long would you last–two days perhaps, a week?

Let’s make this a multiple choice question.

With no mobile device, would you feel:

A. Isolated
B. Uninformed
C. Vulnerable
D. All of the above

For many, the answer is D.

In the end, I needed a cellphone because I couldn’t wait to know things any more.  I needed to reach people wherever I was, at times to keep in touch for social reasons, but more often to get things done or grab a quick update from someone to assess and learn what needed to be done next.

As I write this blog, I’m finding it interesting that there are some keywords I just can’t avoid.  This is not for SEO purposes (sorry Google), but rather because I can only describe what I’m saying by using these words and they keep popping up.  Do you see a pattern yet?

The fact is, I can’t talk about connecting with other people without using the words “know” and “learn.” (Well whaddaya know?)  If you think about it (“think”–there’s another one), it’s engrained in our social language.

In fact, I hate to admit it, but it’s no longer just me on the continuous learning bandwagon.  How many times have you seen the word “webinar” in your email box lately?  There sure seem to be a lot of free classes these days.  And how many seminars have you gone to this year?  It seems like a lot of expense to put those on, doesn’t it?

I went to a couple of free business strategy meetings and M&A seminars earlier this year, and I learned a lot.  I’m not being facitious, I really did.  It was a valuable experience, and I couldn’t help being struck by how much they had to educate me in order for me to become their future customer.  And that’s when it hit me:

We are all in the education business now.  Every one of us.

Whether you’re educating your future customers, current customers, peers, co-workers, employees, investors, the press, the general public, or friends and family; if you want to stay relevant, people need to understand what you’re doing, how it works, and why it’s important.  Things are moving too fast for people to pay attention to anything if they don’t understand its value.

I also equate this idea with the reason we received so many questions recently at Lrngo from users wanting to know how to promote their expertise and themselves as speakers; which became the subject of two Lrngo blogs earlier this year.  So many people with expertise wanted to gain speaking experience and promote themselves by giving presentations, webinars and classes on their topics, that we had to dig in and come up with the information.

This trend isn’t as much about 15 minutes of fame as it is about survival of the fittest.  The consultant, service provider or company that doesn’t stay ahead of the curve by educating their target market on why they are needed and what makes them different won’t be around very long.

As we shift to the reputation economy and social media shines the spotlight on the expertise of individuals, the move toward constantly educating and re-educating each other is not likely to subside any time soon.  In the words of Denis Waitley, “<you can> never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise.”  You have to stay ahead of the curve.

In late 2014, I finally joined Twitter. I fought it for years. It’s amazing how much you can learn from one sentence.

Follow me on Twitter @davidcbrake

How to be a Freelance Instructor by Teaching Your Favorite Activity

Teach and Learn on LRNGO.com

This week, I’m going to discuss and present a few options for the uninitiated about teaching your skills.  First of all, I want to stress that one on one instruction between two people provides a level of learning interaction and help/progress that one simply cannot get from a video online.  Most people know by now that you can learn from a video, but it can never be your mentor.

Once someone falls in love with a certain subject, discipline, sport, or any activity, they tend to start devouring everything they can and practice/study religiously. After a while, the question of whether or not to teach the subject they learned and pass it on to others comes up.  Today with all of us connected, there is perhaps more opportunity for freelance instruction than at any time before in human history.

There are two ways one can teach what they love to thirsty modern students and earn money doing it, the physical and digital worlds. Each one has its ups and downs, and both are in a constant state of flux and evolution.  Of course, certain subjects may be more suited to one than the other, but in most cases the best option comes down to individual circumstances, niche, expertise level and access. Let’s explore both.

Real World Freelance Instruction

Most localized freelance instructors, whether activity teachers or extra-curricular tutors, begin small. They may put out an ad in the local paper, or perhaps print out some flyers to give to schools in the area. Regardless, the idea is to start with one single student and go from there.

A local tutor’s biggest money maker is going to be word of mouth. Make sure to print up wallet sized calling cards to hand out at parties, social gatherings, and within the homeschooling community.

The idea is to advertise yourself in unobtrusive ways until you have a student, and then build. Here are some tips to getting started.

Establish Your Fee – Typically most people expect an hourly rate, so give them one. Study up on your competition if there is any. As you get more students and there is more demand for your services, your hourly rate can move up, but until then make your rate average or less for your area.

  • Focus on Your Niche but Stay Open to your skillset – Is it best to pick one thing you are exceptionally strong in, and focus on just that, and that alone? In today’s highly diversifying economy and workforce, there is nothing wrong with getting as specific as possible. For example SAT prep math vs., math in general.  However, you may have other skills which you can develop a curriculum for teaching and for which there is a high demand.  Many college grads find that their minor or other skills they are familiar with are the ones that many others really want to learn.  Once you’ve taught one subject or activity, it isn’t as hard to develop a curriculum for a second.  Just remember how you learned, and then concentrate on imparting that information.
  • Familiarize - Once you’ve chosen your subject or subjects, no matter how practiced you may be, become intimately aware of the goals and needs of each individual you teach.  In some cases, you may work off the traditional coursework that students are being exposed to, and in others you must set the curriculum. You must be able to adapt and diversify according to the demand that comes your way.
  • Lesson Plans – Become a master at crafting them in ways that engage and interest your students.
  • Establish Relationships – Always conduct yourself professionally and in a way that shows you are helpful, and have a 110% service orientated attitude. It’s equally important to form great relationships with students and parents. Always be upfront, transparent, and accommodating.
  • Consider Online Tutoring – Joining the online tutoring revolution isn’t for everyone, but it sure provides unprecedented means of teaching, and reaching students from basically anywhere on Earth. The biggest perk is flexibility, although getting started can be a bit time consuming since there are so many choices. There’s much more involved than simply handing out cards or paying for an ad in the local paper.

Freelance Instruction and the Virtual Classroom

Most of the tutors coming online have prior experience with in person private tutoring. They either catch wind of another local tutor making great money, or stumble upon the idea as the momentum within the online education system reaches more and more of our western society.

They start cautiously, typically without any real working knowledge of the industry, and then the desire for extra income streams and the ability to work from home drives forward. The amount of online tutoring companies entering the market makes it easy to find employment and get started with students, but that’s not the only way.  You can use Skype (or one of hundreds of other  platforms) and accept payments through Paypal, or even put up your own website.  Here are some tips to make sure you have a solid foundation to build on.

Basic Supplies You’ll Need

No need to go overboard here and spend huge gobs of money, these are the essentials. On the other hand if this is a serious and long term career movement, make sure to get high quality products.

  • Computer - This is the command center of your business, and should be at least reliable, and a solid  machine that is capable of performing all the tasks you will need it to.
  • Internet Access – This should ideally be high-speed with minimal chances for interruption.
  • Instant Messaging – This could range from any number of internet program choices, but to start I would suggest getting familiar with Skype.
  • Dedicated Email Account – This is one of the major hubs of the business, and should sound and look professional.
  • Online Payment Service – PayPal is the most popular, but some sites will conceal and use your own personal bank accounts as well making it much easier.
  • Headset – Get one that looks good and has an attached microphone you can rely on.
  • Web Camera – Don’t pinch pennies, get a quality web came that will display quality to those who are learning from you.

Baby Steps into the Online Empire

Once you’re set to go and the home office is looking tight and professional, it’s time to plan your approach. For those starting out, there are many choices.  Going solo can be advisable, but there’s nothing wrong with going through a website with requirements either. The upside is you don’t necessarily need any formal education or certifications, although having them can help present you as a validated source for learning prior to receiving positive feedback.

  • Get some experience under your belt working for free or less than you will charge in the beginning (try our Trade lessons platform), learn, and then build. After you’ve made a name for yourself and gotten some experience, then setting up your own private online gig becomes a more viable option. If you have no certification, then consider getting certified by an association in each subject niche.  For instance, if you’re tutoring chemistry and you’re not currently a college student with really high grades, then consider getting certified by the National Tutor Association or another accredited agency.
  • In the online world it is important that for each subject you teach to be as specific about the service you offer as possible. There are established sites that allow you to basically set up a profile and an advertisement, or choose from a list of subjects. The best thing to do is to start small, and incrementally take on more as you learn and get more accustomed to the work.
  • Most places will allow you to set your own wage, but there are others that take most of the guesswork out of the process and take a large cut of your pay. The best idea is to go with a popular site that is getting requests from potential students, and lets you communicate do business with those who contact you directly.  After you get lots of traffic, you can choose to have finances streamlined and simplified for both you and your students.
  • If you are going to be teaching in students’ homes, consider getting some professional liability insurance so that you and your assets are protected.  It’s not a requirement, but it’s also not a bad idea if you are planning a full schedule.
  • After you’ve chosen a site, your profile is all filled out, and you begin taking advantage of any marketing they offer, your job is to study the niche of each subject or activity.  Find out what your potential students are after, and then prepare for the long haul.

Tutoring One Day at a Time

Whether it’s the real or digital world you choose or both, the moral of the story here is to tread lightly at first, learn and adjust, and then build your freelance instruction business.

Obviously there is more to everything than what’s contained in this short blog, because nothing teaches better than experience. If you’re new to the idea and interested in becoming a freelance instructor or tutor by teaching your favorite activity or skills, waste no time.  Start getting experience by trading lessons with others for free here: Trade Lessons on LRNGO, or list to earn money immediately where people can find and learn from you here: Earn money teaching your skills on LRNGO.