1. What do you charge? Fees can range anywhere from $15-$75/hour. Usually at the lower end of the scale are people without degrees or teaching credentials. They could also be high school or college students looking to earn some additional income. Depending on their academic knowledge and their ability to explain things, these less expensive tutors may or may not be a good match for your child. At the upper end of the scale are people with advanced degrees (Masters and Doctorates) as well as college professors. Again, just because they look good on paper and charge a lot of money doesn't mean they are the best tutors. What you are looking for is someone your child can relate to and understand, someone who explains things in different ways until your child "gets it." Feel lucky if you can find a certified teacher who has a good rapport with your child that charges anywhere between $20-$40/hour.
2. What is the length of a session, and how often should the student meet with you? To be the most effective, tutors should meet with students 2-3 times a week. Sessions can range from 1/2 hour to 2 hours, depending on the age of your child. Very young children have short attention spans and should meet more often but for shorter periods of time. High school students can focus for up to two hours if the tutor varies the activities and keeps the discussions lively. Even if students are attending 2 hour sessions, they should still meet with a tutor at least twice a week. By only meeting once a week, students are not able to get enough feedback about the material they are covering and do not have the consistency they need to succeed in their problem areas.
3. How long have you been tutoring? Tutors who have at least one year of experience have had time to work out the kinks in their systems. That's not to say that tutors just starting out won't be excellent teachers for your student, especially if they have previous experience as teachers. However, novice tutors probably haven't worked out their billing system or their cancellation policy or other types of business matters. They may not have as many resources available to them as tutors who have been in business longer. Conversely, just because a tutor has 20 years of experience doesn't mean he/she will be a good match for your child. Sometimes older tutors get set in their ways and have difficulty adjusting their system to new material or children with problems focusing. Making sure your student gets along with the tutor is one of the most important factors in ensuring the relationship is a successful one.
4. Are you a certified teacher? Certified teachers have had to pass minimum competency exams in their areas of expertise. So you can be sure that a certified teacher has a certain basic knowledge of educational concepts and at least some level of proficiency in his/her subject areas. Generally teachers are either certified as elementary (covering grades K-8) or secondary (covering grades 6-12). As you can see, the certifications overlap at grades 6-8, the middle school years. So teachers with either elementary or secondary certifications would be qualified to tutor these grade levels. Depending on the age of your child, you want to try to get a teacher with the appropriate certification. That's not to say a teacher with a secondary certification can't help an elementary student or vice versa. It's just that teachers with an elementary certification have had specialized training dealing with younger children whereas teachers with a secondary certification have had more opportunity to focus on more difficult subject matter.
5. How do you handle kids with learning problems like ADHD and dyslexia? Teachers should be aware that students with learning difficulties often require different strategies than students who have not been diagnosed with these challenges. Tutors should be able to outline some of their specific strategies for helping your child based on what his/her problem happens to be. For example, what do they do when your ADHD daughter just can't seem to focus? What kind of approach would they take with helping your dyslexic son learn to read? You need to make sure that tutors are sensitive to these types of learning issues and have strategies in place to deal with them. One of the qualities that all tutors require is patience, so it would be beneficial to you to observe a tutoring session to see for yourself how patient the tutor is with your student. If the tutor does not allow parents to watch a session, perhaps they would allow you to tape or video record a session, so that it is less distracting for your child. Also, get feedback from your children as to how helpful the tutor is. Don't continue with a tutor who your child does not like and is not enthusiastic about seeing.