How to Be A Good Tutor: 7 Essential Skills

Posted on April, 2022

Searching for ‘how to be a good tutor’ is very common amongst aspiring tutors, and even experienced tutors, in some cases. This is due to numerous factors, the most obvious being: Simply knowing a lot about a subject doesn’t make you a good tutor by default.

It goes without saying, but every tutor should aspire to be the best versions of themselves possible. After all, tutoring students is a big responsibility. How you perform will play a major part in how they learn and how they grow.

We understand that the word ‘good’ is subjective. But in the case of tutoring, ‘being good’ is a lot easier to define based on several performance indicators, such as tests and feedback from parents.

To help you be a good tutor, we’ve outlined seven essential skills. Skills that will only sharpen your abilities both in and out of the classroom!

Let’s begin by looking at tutor skills generally and why they are so important.

What are Tutor Skills and Why are They Important?

Tutor skills are the qualities and aptitudes tutors possess that allow them to carry out their role effectively. Every tutoring job you apply for will ask that you possess at least one of these skills as standard.

Having the right skills is essential if you’re looking at how to be a good tutor. Some of the tutor skills we’ll cover in this blog are pretty straightforward, such as maintaining a level of confidentiality when it comes to dealing with students and any problems they might have.

We’re going to cover these skills more as we go, but here’s a quick rundown of what we’ll be covering in this post:

  1. Have patience
  2. Be flexible
  3. Practice empathy
  4. Maintain confidentiality
  5. Be a professional
  6. Communicate effectively
  7. Leadership skills

One of the great things about being a tutor is how you’re always learning and developing your own skills on a daily basis. Not everyone will start out being incredibly patient and flexible. Experience will help shape that as you spend more time around your students.

We understand that there are more tutor skills out there of note; we just believe that the seven skills mentioned are the most important. Having patience, for example, will underpin all aspects of the role in one way or another.

A tutor teaching a class of students

Have Patience

As a tutor, you’ll teach students of various ages, backgrounds and beliefs – all of whom will have their own strengths and weaknesses. It will be your job to approach every student with an equal level of care and attention to provide them with the support they need.

It’s a known fact that not every student you come across will understand the topics you’re teaching them, or be as well-behaved as you might like. So, it’s very important that you, as a tutor, remain patient, not only for the benefit of their students, but for themselves.

“Teachers need to do more than just show patience with students. They must understand them, too. Essentially, patience without understanding isn’t patience at all, but an empty form of waiting.”
– Nancy Weber, author of Teacher Talk: What it Really Means

Not being patient and understanding won’t make you a good tutor. It will make you irritable and prone to frustration which is no good for anyone. Unfortunately, patience isn’t something you can learn overnight. It takes practice, and lots of it. Unless you’re naturally patient as a person, that is.

Be Flexible

Like patience, flexibility is required if you’re to become a good tutor. Before we continue, we should point out that flexibility for tutors is a lot more than going from one task to the next in a lesson. An effective tutor adapts quickly and will change their teaching style to meet the needs of every student.

We’ve mentioned this before in our blog detailing a day in the life of an English tutor, but it’s worth mentioning again: Implementing the VAK learning model will help you develop flexible tutor skills, identifying visual learners, auditory learners, and kinaesthetic learners. The importance of which helps tutors outline the appropriate way to teach every student in their class.

Flexibility also applies to how often a tutor works. You might need to work longer hours some weeks to help some students catch-up. Again, how to be a good tutor has a lot to do with how flexible you can be.

A stack of various coloured books

Practice Empathy

This next tutor skill goes back to what we were saying at the start of this post about how knowing about a subject is only part of what makes a tutor so effective at their job. Practising empathy is another which is the act of recognising when you feel like your students require emotional support.

In a classroom of up to 30 students, it can be difficult to recognise where this kind of support is needed. That being said, there are some red flags to lookout for. You can usually tell a student needs emotional support when they:

  • Seems unusually lost and distracted
  • Makes mistakes more than usual
  • Is a lot less talkative than usual
  • Closed off (visible through body language)

Identifying these problems early needs to be prioritised, as leaving students without emotional support for too long can cause them to become irritable and a nuisance for others in the class. Asking students to talk to you one-on-one is a great way of getting to the root of the problem.

A lack of understanding tends to be one of the main causes for this type of behaviour. You might need to adjust your teaching style to help them. Let’s use a real-world example to help.

Let’s say you spot a student struggling in class and they tell you they don’t understand the topic fully and don’t want to ask questions in front of everyone else in the class as they’re intimidated. One way to help this student would be to suggest small group instruction where you can help them fully understand certain topics and interact with their classmates in a less intimidating environment.

Maintain Confidentiality

Maintaining confidentiality is something that a lot of blogs on how to be a good tutor don’t mention. Still, it’s 100% worth mentioning as it’s an essential skill to have when you consider how easy it might be to let certain information slip.

Generally, tutors aren’t allowed to disclose personal information about their students to people without proper authorisation first. This is something that should be outlined in your initial induction, and should be expected with any education-based job.

Do keep in mind that there are exceptions to this rule. For example, if a tutor believes that a student plans to cause serious physical harm to others or themselves then this is grounds to get a parent involved.

Tutors will need to rely heavily on their intuition when it comes to maintaining confidentiality. Of course, it always helps when working for an organisation, (whether it is directly as a tutor or as a franchisee) as there will be someone you can go to to get advice or help on dealing with any situation.

A teacher drawing on a whiteboard

Be Professional

How punctual you are as a tutor matters. It matters as disciplined tutors are reliable – reliable from an institutional point of view and from students. From a student perspective, being professional sets the right example in terms of being organised and being on time for classes.

Time management and preparation is a big part of how to be a good tutor. Tutors that manage their time productively can cover all topics within a lesson without worry, and have enough time to cater to the individual needs of every student.

Being professional when dealing with students and parents is as important as having empathy. But tutors need to be professional when handling any issue that might arise. Letting your emotions get the best of you is less than ideal in any problem situations, which is where patience also comes into play.

Dressing the part also plays a factor. Again, tutors are setting an example for their students, and wearing inappropriate clothing will only serve as a distraction. If you’re ever unsure on what to wear, look at other tutors for some inspiration. At Redbridge Tuition, all tutors are required to wear a uniform which is casual but smart, as this embodies our company ethos.

Communicate Effectively

Communication skills are a lot more than audibly explaining topics to students. It covers everything from your facial expressions to the conviction behind your voice. An effective tutor will be able to communicate to every student, regardless of any potential language barriers.

It goes without saying, but having strong verbal communication skills is a must for good tutors. Having these skills can help tutors relay information that is complex or too difficult to understand. To be a good verbal communicator, tutors need to be:

  • Use appropriate examples
  • A patient listener
  • Speak clearly and loud enough
  • Emote through body language
  • Be clear and thorough with pronunciation

Strong written communication skills are just as important, especially when it comes to providing feedback on tests and other tasks you’ve set. If you’re providing written feedback for a test, then this needs to be clear, concise, and constructive.

For anyone, your communication skills are only as strong as your listening skills. Being an active listener is equally as important for tutors if they’re to provide the support that students need. So if you are looking to hone your communication-based tutor skills it might be worth growing your listening skills at the same time.

A woman stood at the door of an empty classroom

Leadership Skills

Leadership is the final tutor skill we’d like to bring your attention to. Your experience as a tutor will give you the opportunity to build a unique set of leadership skills that you can later draw upon throughout your career.

Similar to what we were saying before about being a professional, having those leadership qualities makes you someone to look up to too. Ask most students, and even some adults, where they derive inspiration from and most of them will talk about someone that helped them during their education.

If that doesn’t tell you the importance of being a tutor with strong leadership skills, then nothing will!

How to Be A Good Tutor: 7 Essential Tutor Skills

Master all seven of the tutor skills we’ve outlined above and you’ll become more than a good tutor. You’ll become someone who can meet the individual needs of every student in the classroom.

Looking to put these tutor skills to the test? Here at Redbridge Tuition, we are always on the lookout for talented and passionate people to work with. Be sure to check out our careers page for the latest openings.

Feel free to get in touch if you have questions about any of the roles we’re hiring for. A member of the Redbridge team will be more than happy to help.

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