I get asked all the time what skills you need to be to become a successful tutor, so I thought it was about time that I put a comprehensive guide together. Everything that follows is based on my own personal experience, and I hope it provides plenty of insight into what it takes to make a great living doing what you love. Enjoy!
Concentration and the ability to block out distractions
One of the things that people so often overlook about being a language tutor is that you have to do far more than give classes and tutorials. You might think that giving classes face-to-face, or tutorials over the internet is just talking about what you already know about, but there’s far more to it than that.
To be able to explain a topic in detail for an hour or more, you need to be able to spend at least twice as long preparing. This is the type of deep focused work where you really get to know your subject inside out. It’s about checking you can explain everything in half a dozen different ways, and then choosing the most relevant one for your chosen audience. None of this would be possible if you ended up on Facebook half the day!
The ability to learn new subjects quickly
As a tutor, you may have a student who decides ‘I want to pay someone to write my essay.’ That’s all well and good, and research has shown that example model answers will greatly improve a student’s comprehension of the subject. But what if it’s about a subject that you haven’t thought about for several years? Well, that’s where the ability to learn the basics of a new subject in double quick time really comes into play.
A patient approach that understands different abilities
Not everyone you teach is going to be a superstar when it comes to the written word, and that’s okay. Being a tutor is all about finding a way to bring the best out of everyone, and showing them they have skills they never knew they had. What I find really works is getting to know what a student is struggling with, and then making sure that they know how we’re going to address each issue together. Once you build that bond, you can make progress a lot faster.
Good verbal skills that enable you to explain concepts
If you want to be able to make a career for yourself as a tutor you need to be able to convey what you say nice and clearly. Your job is to explain and clarify, not to overwhelm and confuse. This means that you’re going to need to employ advanced and highly
nuanced verbal skills so that you can get your message across. Avoiding technical jargon and complex turns of phrase is always the way to go to begin with. Then once your student learns more and gains confidence, you can gradually extend them by increasing the complexity of your vocabulary. Get to know the individual needs of every student, and you’ll be speaking their language before you know it.
A keen eye for detail that ensures nothing simple is missed
Last but not least, you’re going to need a keen eye for detail. Students will take what their teachers tell them as gospel 99% of the time, which means you need to make sure you always get it right. Little details like punctuation and grammar really matter, so take the time to focus on the work you’re looking at.