By Victoria Pippins
No matter how knowledgeable you are, it takes a certain set of skills to teach. I'm sure you've encountered bad teachers before and know how they can make learning more of a challenge than it should be. Understanding how to connect with students is just as important as the knowledge it takes to tutor them. If you're not sure if you have the necessary skills, or want to know more about them, then you're in the right place. These same skills can also be very valuable when it comes to teaching your own kids, and even yourself. To ensure that my advice is as helpful as possible, I spoke with Lexi Shealy, who tutored for nine years through high school and college, working with kids as young as 5 to adults as old as 28. Together, we identified four skills that can’t afford to be overlooked if you want to succeed in this area of life.
Lexi and I both agreed that patience was the most important skill to develop. Your students may struggle to understand the material and losing your cool with them will do nothing but discourage and upset them. Maintaining your composure is vital to helping them achieve their goals.
This one will come in handy when you have to find unique ways to explain something. Textbook definitions don’t work for everyone, so being able to relate the content to unusual topics can be a very useful tool. Linking the subject to some real-life examples, especially ones that relate to the student's life or interests, can greatly increase their ability to remember information and keep them engaged in the process. Using multiple examples will also help reinforce these ideas and can help you quiz them in ways that are more entertaining.
Being able to share ideas with others in a way that is effective and clear is necessary in everything we do. If you’re struggling to get your ideas across or you just can’t seem to find the words to explain your thoughts, you might need to work on your communication skills. To do this, begin by taking note of the way you listen. Is your attention fully on your student? Are you observing their body language and taking breaks when they seem frustrated? As far as speaking goes, do you explain terminology they might not know and verbally check in with them often to make sure they’re understanding? If you have trouble explaining concepts, you might benefit from taking the time to sit down and write out some definitions in your own words or plan some more thorough analyses before you tutor.
Students are far more likely to trust someone who's honest. This is crucial, because if they feel that they can't just "take your word for it," they likely won’t be receptive to the lessons. For this reason, it's important to be honest when you don't know or aren’t sure about something. Having the foresight to tell them “I’m not sure, let me check,” can establish a connection with them that says two things: “Your education is very important to me,” and “You can trust that what I’m saying is factual.”
Edited by Jenna Fults