The First Session

Many of you have yet to be assigned or have yet to have your first meeting with a student. 

The following guidelines, adapted from  A Tutor’s Handbook, can help  start  your tutoring relationship off in the right direction.

  • Be on time.  If you are punctual  you encourage your student to be the same.  Being late conveys the message that  your time is more important than your student’s….and in this case, it is not.
  • Be honest about your abilities, limitations and expectations.  This helps establish rapport and trust.  Explain that you are there to work with the student, as a partner, toward his/her independence as a learner.
  • Be patient.  Just as this may be your first session as a tutor, it may be the student’s first session as a “tutee”.  What may be obvious to you may not be to your student.
  • Be aware that even more than words, body language and tone of voice convey your attitude toward the material and the student’s needs.
  • Be empathetic.  Put yourself in the student’s place.  What comes easily for you does not necessarily come easily for him/her.  The best way to develop empathy is to…
  • Listen, listen, listen.  Listen for and learn the clues in the student’s speech that tell you how s/he is feeling about the course, the topic and the session.
  • Use encouragement.  Provide honest and positive feedback whenever possible in the first session.  For example, recognize and applaud the student’s decision to seek out and use tutoring.
  • Be respectful.  Each student comes with a unique set of experiences, values and beliefs which s/he is entitled to maintain.
  • Treat the student as an equal.  Remember you are a student too.  S/he may be weak in the field in which you are assisting, but strong in areas in which you are weak.
  • Be confidant.  You were chosen as a tutor because you have the qualities and skills to be effective as a tutor and a role model.  Having confidence means admitting that you are not the teacher, and do not have all or even most of the answers.  Be honest and tell your student when you have to research a question, or talk to the teacher.  Doing this demonstrates the skills you want your student to develop.

Your goal as a tutor is to help the student become an independent learner. The behaviors, skills and attitudes you demonstrate in your first session(s) will have great impact on achieving this goal.