My Service vs Other Options
Additionally, a lot of tutors only have a vague idea of what it means to tutor. "Work with the student and help them with their subject, in exchange for financial compensation". Concomitant with that vague notion of what it means to tutor and how to go about tutoring is the generic and, to use a crude analogy, "one-size-fits-all" approach taken. The effect of the effort put into tutoring, like most everything else in life, is not determined simply by the amount of time spent doing it, but also by the efficiency with which this time is spent. (Notice the words "effect" and "efficient" have the same latin root.) There must also be a systematic approach taken that maximizes the effect of a given amount of time spent, and that is tailored to the individual. One often overlooked factor I take into consideration for determining a strategy is how the grades are determined, and how different categories (homework, tests, final, etc) are weighted.
Also concomitant with the vague notion of tutor that many part-time tutors hold is that their approach can be short-sighted. By this I mean that they have no long-term plan; it's only on a day-by-day basis. They are only concerned with what's going on while they are in the tutor-tutee relationship, and not afterward. There are obvious faults with this philosophy, but let's look at the most obvious: that sort of attitude contributed heavily to the Recession! (Moral Hazard)
☞ Other Independent Tutors
You might find a good one (like me!) or you might not. Oftentimes a tutor gives impressive-sounding credentials, but they may be false, or the tutor may have limited teaching ability. I'm sure we've all had the experience of encountering a brilliant individual who was not that great at teaching. One-on-one tutoring requires first and foremost competence in the subject area, but there is much more to it than that. It involves a deep sense of empathy, and the ability to understand exactly what the student knows and doesn't know, and what will work for that particular student. Additionally, when a person claims they've been tutoring for, say, 12 years, what they really mean is they've been doing it on and off over the course of a 12 year period. They may actually have the same amount or less experience than someone who has been doing it intensively for 1 year. And let's not forget about the person who copied my ad verbatim...Another thing to keep in mind is that other "elite" tutors (and other people in the personal service industries such as psychiatrists and doctors) will sometimes try to foster your dependence on them, attempting to convince you that you NEED them in order for you or your child to succeed, so they can secure your future business. Worst case, they may even conduct sessions in a way so as to help make that come true! I am completely honest and up front that my role is not to be the crutch, but rather, the facilitator. If you want to do as much outside of tutoring as possible due to financial constraints and/or if you want to foster student independence, I respect that, and during our session I can give suggestions to maximize the impact of our tutoring.
☞ Tutoring Companies
Tutors in companies frequently work with groups of students, so it's more difficult for their tutors to give students individual attention and get to know them on a personal level. They may also employ individuals with limited credentials and teaching experience, and it will be impossible for the companies to retain tutors as qualified, experienced, and motivated as I am. Additionally, the compensation to employees is questionable compared to the high rates the companies charge, so their tutors will not have as high an incentive to do well as I have. You might be paying $100/hour but only be getting a $20/hour tutor!! Remember the old adage "you get what you pay for"? Well with tutoring companies, you actually get significantly less than what you pay for! I learned from one of my clients that a major tutoring center just gives books to the students, doesn't really monitor their progress, and worst of all, didn't report to their parents that the student was goofing off! "Yes, he's doing just fine; Absolutely no problems", when in fact he wasn't doing any of the work at all. They were more concerned about securing the client than doing what it was that they were supposed to be doing. The slower he improves, the more money they can drain.
It may or may not be a surprise to you, but I came to realize that there are rather expensive high school tutoring companies ($250+/hr for example) that have stricken deals with the counseling offices at elite private schools, and for this reason do not have to invest in traditional paid advertising, but rather have a referral system set up with the counseling offices. One of my students, when I asked why they switched to me, said they were being told by a tutor from such a company that they were "doing fine". The tutor wouldn't even engage them, and would just turn the student loose to do homework and at the end say they had done everything right. The student then found out they were performing very poorly when they got their grades. That is a failure on so many levels: The tutor didn't properly diagnose the student's situation or prepare them adequately, cheated the parents out of money, shocked the student, and harmed the self-confidence of a minority female. The counselors are supposed to be looking out for the student's best interest, not referring students to low-quality tutors for a kickback!
Additionally, many tutoring companies claim that their tutors are "certified", but the tutors are not screened by an independent agency--The certification is issued by the tutoring company! And here's something to definitely consider, I've had an applicant to a major commercial tutoring company hire me for help preparing for his application exam, and he was hired!
☞ Cheap Online Tutors
While they may be convenient, there are a number of drawbacks to using your average online tutor. The biggest that they're usually a step down from brick and mortar company tutors, in terms of both tutor credentials and quality of instruction. Another drawback is that oftentimes the tutor differs from session to session (or even within a session), so the familiarity that online tutors gain with their students is minimal.
While many online tutors may appear to be cheaper than other options, this actually depends to a large extent on the speed with which the student can formulate their questions and type or draw them for the online tutor. If this is not done quickly, the dollar price may actually be the same as other options, but with less effectiveness and more time spent (so the true cost can be higher). Also, a lot of online tutoring is outsourced to other countries, particularly to India, and these tutors are not necessarily familiar with American education.
☞ Undergraduate/Graduate Teaching Assistants
Teaching Assistants are often underpaid, overworked, and too busy and stressed to do a good job helping you learn. Their hourly wage (all things considered) can actually be less than minimum wage, since they are often paid a flat fee, calling their incentive to teach you well into question. Additionally, they are usually unskilled, novice teachers.
☞ No Tutoring--Sticking to the Classroom and Teacher
It's quite difficult to get attention in a classroom, and the teacher has so many students to deal with that it's hard to reach them outside of class, especially given conflicting schedules. Additionally, interactive learning is more effective than passive learning that all too frequently occurs in classrooms, for a number of reasons.
-Being in constant dialogue allows the tutor to know exactly what the student knows and doesn't know, something that is difficult to come by in large classroom settings with little opportunity for dialogue. Think about the Socratic method, and why lawyers and police interrogators ask so many questions. It really helps get the truth out.
-Active engagement requires the student's involvement in a way passive learning does not, and thus leaves no option but for the student to grow. For example, studies have shown that foreign languages are learned much more quickly when the student is immersed in the language and has to speak the language, than if the subject is learning solely through vocabulary, books, and classrooms.
-Active engagement in tutoring sessions fosters the independence and confidence that will be necessary for exceptional performance elsewhere.
Maybe the reason you're seeking my service out in the first place is because you don't find your teacher's pedagogy sufficient. I know I've certainly come across some not so great teachers. When I was in 3rd grade, I could divide numbers to several decimal places of accuracy faster than my teacher could do it on her calculator. My experiences as a student and as a teacher happened in comparatively close proximity, so I have perspectives on both that few have. Additionally, when I taught high school math classes, I got to know my students' mindsets in much more depth than an average teacher. I was the only teacher that graded every problem of every daily assignment of ALL 60 of my students' homework, and these were no easy problems!