Be it academics, music or sports – your first tutoring session with a prospective student can seem like a daunting challenge. But, like with every challenge, there is a reward in overcoming it. Paying attention to details and doing your homework for the first tutoring session can help you build a brand for yourself in the long run. 

Tutors who pay heed to every child’s individual academic and psychological needs, always end up winning popularity and credibility in the longer run. Before we go on to tell you how to nail your first impression, let us outline the basics of tutoring business (irrespective of the field you operate in) that you must be on board with, even before you start:

  • Tutoring or coaching is never about cracking a pedagogy style that fits all – you will need to be nimble in your teaching and assessment methods
  • The first tutoring session is not about being the best person academically – it entails much more than that to hit the right chord with the students
  • Tutoring is a business where you may take some time building credibility – patience and consistent focus on each student is the key
  • To be a successful tutor, you need to harness the power of network and word-of-mouth 

Hence, before you begin stomping off to the journey of successful tutoring, stock up on the three essentials you’ll need on the go – dynamism, all-roundedness as a teacher and patience. 

You can go about finding prospective students in a systematic way. There are several articles on our blog that can help you build a good online profile. Talentnook is a place where you can always come to find and connect very easily with the students in your neighborhood who are looking for tutors in academics, music, arts etc. 

Preparing for the First Tutoring Session: A Step by Step Guide to Ensure an Effective First Session

You may want to offer a trial session to your students. This helps the parent to make a timely decision when they are considering which tutor to choose. A good first tutoring session directly implies a student’s interest in you. Effective teaching is an interpersonal skill and your first tutoring session is the most critical trailer of it, so be sure to nail it.

After all, the first impression is the last impression goes the old adage too! And, Talentnook brings to you the most comprehensive guide to excelling in your first tutoring session.  Let’s see what are the 8 sure shot ways that can help you ace your first tutoring session:

  1. Do your first round of secondary research

Knowing the context and small details about the student, school, district, etc. can help you plan your lesson much more precisely. Use the power of the internet and your friends’ circle to know basic details about the following in case of academic tutoring:

  • The school’s district and general teaching methodology
  • Curriculum prescribed by the student’s teachers at school
  • Pattern and mode of school’s standardized tests (oral/subjective/objective/essays etc.)
  • School timings (knowing these well can help you space out your session from the last period bell and allow the student sufficient time for rest)
  • Hobbies of the student (if possible, try knowing everything about your prospective student, it will help you create right, relevant examples during the session)
  • Student’s academic background and scores – you can always as this upfront to the parents or the student (if they are willing to share) and explain to them that it will help you tailor your sessions accordingly 

Similarly, for music or art (painting, sketching, etc.) or  tutoring of any other kind, you can do the following research:

  • Does the student want to take exams and do a certification in a particular skill?
  • The student’s past performance basis tournaments participated in, tournaments won, stage shows performed etc. (you can ask the student upfront about these before the first tutoring session)
  • The average number of hours spent per week on the art/sport after school and at school (it will give you a fair idea of how intense a session should be for the student)

Doing your homework with this basic 3-point research plan can help you tailor your tutoring session for art and music most optimally. 

In fact, knowing these little facts and details can help you customize your first session in a way that it can ring all the right bells. 

To maximize the impact, you can also call up the parents a few days before the first session and ask their goals and expectations upfront. If the expectations seem reasonable, you can customize the study plan accordingly, if not, you can share the feedback then and there to avoid future hassle.

2. Choose your attire and accessories carefully – looks do matter!

Tutors often tend to make the mistake of dressing up either too casually or too formally in order to look their best. Well, the key is to be comfortable in your clothing without being over the top. And yes, clothes and your accessories DO matter. 

A Forbes article says that what you wear matters in ways beyond you can imagine. While impeccable clothing cannot make up for lack of academic soundness, it still matters.

To avoid distracting the student and keeping your vibe friendly and approachable, here’s what you can do to dress sharp but NOT stark:

  • Wear pastels – they are classy, easy on the eyes of the children and give you a soft, friendly vibe instantly 
  • Steer clear of statement jewellery, cufflinks, etc.  – they are an unnecessary distraction and can sometimes take away the approachable, relatable and erudite vibe from your personality
  • Do not wear very large prints – stick to pinstripes, small polka dots, and light textures to avoid looking over the top (especially for the very first tutoring session)
  • Wear clean shoes and try to smell good – this one needs no explanation, right?
  • Wear light makeup and groom your hair – say no to shabby beards and dark-coloured lipsticks, children usually do not react well to such distractions
  • Do not wear anything too glossy 
  • Keep your eyewear simple and clean – say no fluorescent or neon frames
  • Try not to wear un-ironed clothes, they can instantly make you look more frivolous than erudite

These simple clothing hacks can instantly make you look more welcoming and friendly – a prerequisite for becoming a go-to-tutor for the students. 

3. Do your homework – prepare a lesson plan and a post-lesson recap plan

Prepare a lesson outline and take some notes for yourself while planning the lesson flow. Start with basics, include questions and chart out a recap plan in advance. 

If your first tutoring session is an hour-long, you must necessarily spend about 15 mins in the recap, towards the end. This will seal the theory in the student’s brain and helps them feel confident of having grasped during your session.

Ask questions like these to reinforce everything you taught the student in your session:

  • “Do you remember what concept A was? We studied this at the beginning of the session!”
  • “Can you tell me 5 key takeaways from today’s session?”
  • “Which fact today most amazed you?”
  • “Can you tell any 2 daily life examples of the scientific phenomenon we just read about?”
  • What new song can you identify with similar bass levels? (in case you’re a guitar tutor, for example!)
  • Can you tell which of these styles was Picasso’s favorite? (in case you’re a painting and sketching tutor)

As you’ll take them through a brief overview of whatever you taught, they will connect the dots in their head and will be pleasantly surprised to see how well they remembered most things. The moment you build confidence in a student, half the success is already achieved!

4. Be creative in your pedagogy, strike a balance between fun & studies!

Being fun is quintessential in succeeding as a teacher – be it at school, college or as a tutor. The very first tutoring session should not be academics heavy and should have carefully placed elements of fun. 

A child is likely to detest a tutor if they end up becoming another teacher from the school. Here are some easy ways to be the most sought-after teacher for a student:

  • Use lots of examples while explaining any principle or theory
  • Give examples of innovators and people of historical significance in the field (mention Beethoven and Mozart if you teach music, Shakespeare if you teach literature and Picasso if you teach painting!)
  • Use hand gestures but in moderation
  • Throw in a fun puzzle or two unexpectedly for the student
  • Use animations, videos, etc. to illustrate a concept visually
  • Give examples from popular cartoons, fairy tales, folklore, etc. (they help a student build their recall in a very effective manner)
  • Try building small functional models to help the student take an interest in your session
  • Give anecdotal examples from the student’s area of interest (as much as possible, for example, you don’t need to know football team names, but you can always quote it while teaching laws of momentum!)
  • Invest in getting printed, colored or artistically designed cheat sheets or little after-class revision notes
  • Prepare a progress tracking sheet and incorporate small rewards (even chocolates would do!)

4. Give them homework and leave the session at a small cliffhanger

 

So now that we are through the basics of force and momentum, think tonight about this problem. If a train with ten bogies has an engine that has to exert X Newtons of force, if I add 2 more bogies, how much more force will be required?

Or,

Can you now tell me tomorrow about the approximate height of your room? Using the Pythagoras theorem, try to do some basic approximated measurements.

 

This is one way of leaving your student wanting more of you at the end of the session. Give your students homework after you finish a session. 

It could be objective or subjective, long or short an exercise or it could be just a guesstimate question, but you must leave them with something to ponder upon. As a thumb rule, always leave open-ended questions for the student to think about.

It’s likely that they will reach out to you for another session once you have them hooked onto a puzzle or a question with a counterintuitive answer. 

One way to keep in touch after finishing the very first session is to ask for the solution over email or messages (if the student is not too young). There is a higher likelihood of a student reverting digitally than in person. Once, the conversation kicks in, there is little chance that your first tutoring session won’t burgeon into a full-fledged yearlong routine.

5. Co-create the study plan with the student – make them feel involved

Need help with the curriculum design and session planning? Well, there are zillions of online resources for help. But, the best way to do it, is to seek your own student’s help. Be approachable and prod them in a friendly way that doesn’t intimidate them and make the exercise look like a stern interrogation. Keep the conversation casual and warm.

Talk openly to your student in the very first session and take notes of the following, before you design a session plan:

  • Current books that have been prescribed by the school
  • Number of extra books a student is willing to delve into 
  • Weekly study hours (current statistics will tell you a lot about the stretch-potential of the student and you can figure out timelines better)
  • Areas of strength and weakness (can be gauged by administering a small diagnostic test at the beginning of the very first tutoring session)
  • Student’s expectations from the tutor (increase in overall marks, grade jump in a specific subject, better score on a standardized test like SAT, etc.)

Take all these inputs and try to personalize a study plan for the student. It’s likely that a good listener in you will get the student to see their long-term study plans and goals with you. 

6. Get the parents involved too!

Winning a parent’s trust can be the most pivotal step in succeeding as a private tutor. Facts increasingly suggest that parents’ participation in their children’s studies has been on a rise. 

In 2016, the percentages of students whose parents reported attending a general meeting at their child’s school, a parent-teacher conference, or a school or class event reached their highest recorded levels (89%, 78%, and 79%, respectively).

 

Besides the obvious impact of academic credibility, there is also a softer side to winning this trust of parents. Here is what you can do to gain their trust and faith in you:

  • Talk before you start: ask the parents about their expectations from a tutor, expected increase in scores or grades and other smaller details viz.
    • Daily tutoring timings (afternoons vs evenings, number of hours, etc.)
    • Previous experience if any with a tutor
    • Expectations from a tutor in general (could be anything right from punctuality to giving practical examples while teaching etc.)

7. Discuss the short- and long-term plan/vision as a tutor

A lot of budding tutors shy away from discussing their long-term vision for a student or for their own selves as a tutor. 

Tell the parents about your short-term and long-term goals, it will affirm your reputation as an organized, clear-headed person with a passion for their job.

Here are some examples of the short-term goals of a tutor for their student:

    • Improvement in grades by the end of a semester/session
    • Better performance in unannounced class tests
    • A certain number of questions (for example, 180 on algebra and 200 on trigonometry) to be practiced within 2 months

And here are some examples of the long-term goals of a tutor for a student:

    • Increase in the total number of hours devoted to studies by the student
    • Increase in concentration span
    • More positive feedback from teachers at school

8. Take feedback after the very first session, allow them to observe

Do not shy away from allowing parents to attend your first session. You can always ask them to be inconspicuous, silent part of the session. This form of inclusion will not only build trust fast enough but will also let you understand their expectations well in advance. 

Thorough feedback after the first session will help you re-design the content plan or rejig the teaching methodology. Having a parent around can make children either completely uncomfortable or fully secure. It totally varies from one child to another. 

If a student strongly detests having their parents in the tutoring session, do not force it. But if not, always loop in the parents for a demo class and take their due feedback at the end of it.

Some quintessential best practices to come across as a reliable and an academically sound thorough professional

Very often, people forget about basic etiquettes that one must follow when dealing with a student. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some such best practices:

  • Do not check your phone while the student works on a problem or reads
  • Do not play any kind of music while teaching and keep your phone in a no-disturbing mode
  • Let the student talk openly about themselves, but you must not get overly inquisitive and should never ask for their personal details

  • Do not confirm the first session if you are down with any kind of ailment, parents always seek a healthy, happy tutor for their children
  • Be open to connecting the student to other tutors from your circle (if you’re a math tutor, you can as well help the student and parents with your contacts, tell them about a science tutor you know, if you think they need one)
  • Don’t discuss rate and pricing with the student or ask them to convince their parents to accede to your policies
  • Do not yawn or stretch even when you have a blank spot in the tutoring session
  • Checking your social media on laptops or mobile phones, while teaching, is a strict no
  • Do not say anything wrong about their school or teachers at school (even if the same is instigated by the student)
  • While giving anecdotal references, try not to speak of your own personal life with the student or keep safe boundaries, it will only make you a thorough professional

At the end of the first tutoring session, you must always seek feedback from both the student and the parents. This bolsters your collaborative nature and leaves a very positive last impression. 

This is pretty much the cognitive and behavioral wherewithal you need to succeed in your first tutoring session (and beyond). If you are already in this end spot of the article, you are most likely planning on your first tutoring session.

Being a successful tutor is no mean feat! And if you’re bent on becoming successful in the business, try Talentnook to connect with the students in your vicinity in the easiest, quickest and most effective manner.  

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Posted by Pragya