How to Find a Tutor During the Pandemic
Whether your family is embracing a hybrid in-school and at-home learning schedule, distance learning, or homeschooling this year, here are some smart ways to find the best tutor for your family's needs.
The 2020/2021 academic year will undoubtedly be like no other in American history. As the world continues to battle COVID-19, parents across the nation are trying to figure out how to best make do with either hybrid learning or full-time distance learning. Along with a slew of scheduling logistics to solve for, parents may also be looking to ease fears about academic backsliding and considering hiring a tutor. But when social distancing is priority number one, tutoring kids doesn't look like it used to for any party involved. What does it look like now? In a word, virtual.
Dubbed "zutors" by the BBC, the demand for tutors in the era of pandemic virtual learning through tele-conference sites like Zoom have exploded in the last few months. Many families have also turned to Facebook where groups like Pandemic Pods have attracted 40,000 eager members to learn more about how to pool resources with other families to give kids a robust academic at-home experience despite the distance from school buildings. But what is even more amazing is that matchmaking sites have popped up to help bring families and "zutors" together like this one out of Cincinnati.
While there are many new resources and clever solutions to make sure kids get the tutoring they need right now, the basics for finding a suitable tutor are still the same. Here are six tried and true methods for finding a great tutor for your child during the pandemic.
Start with Your Teachers
The first place to start with your teachers who already know your children. "They are always the best source of determining what your child needs and they would provide the best guidance for a good match," says Karen Scanlon, a retired teacher in Florida with professional tutoring experience. "Also, the school's guidance counselor usually keeps a list of teachers who also tutor. Having a tutor familiar with the school's curriculum and the ability to obtain the exact materials needed is invaluable."
Scanlon points out that while teachers are the best place to start, families could also consider asking a local high schooler to step in for virtual tutoring sessions.
"If you have an elementary school child, consider a high schooler," says Scanlon. "They will be learning from home as well and could be a great asset. You want a tutor who is familiar with the curriculum but also is a good fit for your child. They will perform better if the relationship is a good one."
Matching Up with Other Families to Create Pods
Some families have chosen to create their own "pandemic pods" by creating groups of four or five families and either pooling resources to hire a tutor or dividing up the teaching duties among parents. This is a great solution for parents who work but who also need childcare. By working together, several families can create a patchwork schedule that helps each parent feel relief when it comes to childcare, teaching duties, and making sure they get to work on time.
"This is a great idea! Primarily, I would advise these groups to locate information on learning expectations for the school year, by subject," says Wenona Young, Quality Assurance Manager for Mathematics, Learning Services, Tutor.com. "This may be available on the school district's or teacher's website. Assuming that the children are enrolled in school, as opposed to homeschooling, the children's teachers will set the pace for the year. However, parents can work with students to stay on track, or even study ahead, using many resources available on the web. Ideally, parents are serving as partners with teachers rather than having to drive the schedule and the curriculum."
Hire a Tutor Through an Agency
Seeking a professional tutor from an agency may seem like an obvious choice, but as Young points out, parents still need to vet their choices.
"Request a phone conversation with the tutor to discuss the tutor's experience, rates, and availability. Such a phone call will allow parents to not only access the technical qualifications of the tutor but also the tutor's personality and overall demeanor," says Young. "It is also important that parents understand the tutor's philosophy about tutoring. Parents want to discern whether the tutor is genuinely interested in the child's learning concepts deeply and over time."
Parents can also rely on word of mouth from trusted friends who have had personal experience with individual tutors or tutoring agencies. Young explains that reputable agencies like tutor.com have a rigorous vetting process already in place to help give parents peace of mind.
"One of the things I love about Tutor.com is the vetting process for tutors—we do that work for families. Each tutor goes through a rigorous application and vetting process, subject matter exam (which just 3 percent of aspiring tutors pass), and criminal background and education verification checks. After becoming tutors with us, they are assigned Quality Specialists who ensure our delivery of the highest quality services for students. And of course, our tutors work with students to determine their individual learning styles and needs," she says.
Tutor by Subject Instead of By Grade
Not all families are looking for a tutor who can handle a full season worth of classes. For some, hiring a tutor to help bring up grades in a specific subject like math or science is what they need most. In those cases, reaching out to teachers is the best place to start. There may be high school or college-age students available to help or the teacher may have names of tutors they know personally who have worked their other students previously.
Hire a Nanny
For some families, tutoring and childcare are bound up in a two-problem solution. Hiring someone who can help guide their kids through coursework is paramount but so too is having someone on hand who can watch over kids while mom and dad get work done. In these cases, Scanlon suggests hiring a nanny.
"Most nannies have a college education and are used to helping children with homework," says Scanlon. "A nanny would be great at organizing your child's school day and could provide excellent support for remote learning."
For families with kids older than elementary school age, peer tutoring might be a smart idea and this can be done virtually. "Peer tutors are typically students who are in the same grade level or subject-class as students. As children develop, the opinions of their peers become more and more important," explains Young. "Hence, peer tutoring can provide students with a measure of comfort that someone older may not."
Young goes on to explain that peer tutoring is a wonderful option for in-person or virtual tutoring and across all subjects. "When the peer tutor is able to successfully explain a concept to a student, two things take place," she says. "The peer tutor's confidence grows as a result of being able to explain. The student being tutored also begins to develop efficacy in their abilities to learn something new. It's a win-win!"