What Makes a Good Tutor: Characteristics of a Good Tutor

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Sometimes a child is not able to have a successful experience in the classroom. This could be due to an illness that caused the child to miss important concepts, a learning disability, classroom distractions, or even simply a difference between teaching and learning styles. When this happens, not all parents feel comfortable or are capable of tutoring their own child.

Luckily, there are a number of professional and qualified tutors available in most communities as well as online. With so many different options to choose from, it is necessary that parents understand what makes a good tutor.

The three most important characteristics to look for in a good tutor are certification, experience, and adaptability.

  1. Certification

Certification is one of the things I would recommend in a tutor, although it isn’t strictly necessary. Certification is an important aspect to look for because it give you, the parent, some assurance that the person is qualified to teach a given subject. Furthermore, most require that certified teachers pass a criminal background-check prior to being issued their teaching certification. This can be comforting for parents who are concerned about the safety of their child.

When interviewing tutors, ask them to provide a copy of their license and certification. Or, you can simply check for yourself. Depending on the state you live in, verifying certification can be rather easy. For example, the Florida Department of Education provides a free certification search engine that allows you to enter a person’s name to find out what type of certification he or she has.

To learn more about verifying certifications in your area, visit the website of your state’s Department of Education or Public Instruction.

  1. Experience

Another important characteristic of a good tutor is their experience. In fact, there are certain instances when experience is more important than certification. A retired schoolteacher, for example, may have thirty years of experience successfully teaching a subject and yet has let his or her certification expire once they have retired from teaching. Sometimes, a teacher is certified in one subject but has also been trained to teach another subject.

For instance, I am certified to teach Social Sciences for children in grades 6-12. When our district was short on reading teachers a while back, I went through extensive training to learn how to teach reading to elementary school students. I am therefore qualified to tutor reading for that age group, even though I am not certified to do so.

Be sure to ask potential candidates about their experience - specifically for their experience working with children around the same age as your son/daughter and in the subject matter he or she needs tutoring for.

  1. Adaptability

Subject material is often still delivered verbally, through a lecture or possibly interactive class discussion. While this method may work perfectly well for most students in the class, there will be students who need hands-on projects to be able to fully understand certain concepts. If your child is a kinesthetic learner, it is important that the tutor be able to deliver information effectively in a manner that your child will be able to comprehend.

No matter what specific learning style your child has, the tutor should be able to ascertain their style and then tailor the tutoring experience to best suit the needs of your child. During your interview, ask the tutor to recall a situation when a child they were working with was having trouble grasping the material presented. Ask him or her to describe, specifically, what they did to help the child succeed.


By taking time to first understand what makes a good tutor, and then actively looking for these characteristics, you will ensure a successful educational experience for your child!