Instantly Improve Your Tutoring Results — Part 1 — Energy

Instantly Improve Your Tutoring Results — Part 1  — Energy


In the recent posts, we've focused primarily on test prep tutoring and curriculum for tutors. This week, we want to take a broader look at best practices for tutoring. Obviously, these tutoring tips can be utilized by test prep tutors, but they're equally relevant to tutors of any subject.

These tips made the list because they're often overlooked or under-appreciated in terms of their ability to enhance the effectiveness of each tutoring session. As a bonus, they're easy to implement, free of cost, and generally deliver instant results

Tutoring effectiveness may be diminished for a variety of reasons, but for our purposes we've divided this list into two parts: Energy and Focus. Next week, we’ll shift our focus to Improving Student Focus during Tutoring Sessions. In this post, we look at Five Tips To Help Tutors Improve the Energy Level at Tutoring Sessions. 


Five Tips To Help Tutors to Improve the Energy Level at Tutoring Sessions

1. Lighten Things Up.
In an episode of Arrested Development, Lindsay Bluth replaces the fluorescent lighting at Bluth Company headquarters with dim lighting for ambiance. When her brother, Michael Bluth, begins to object, she mistakes his concern for a compliment, replying, "Isn't it better? Doesn't this just make you want to curl up and forget about the world?"

As silly as this example is, Lindsay Bluth is not wrong. Dim lighting does make people, students included, want to curl up and forget about the world. So if you're attempting to tutor a student in a poorly lit work space, then you're actually sabotaging the whole endeavor by making it more difficult to stay awake.

Conduct your tutoring sessions in a well lit environment. Natural light is ideal, but ample lighting of any kind will do nicely.

2. Take a Mini Field Trip.
When you sense that a student’s energy levels are declining, have the student get up and move around. Consider asking the student to work through a few problems the white board. If you don’t have access to a white board, then just have the student stand up and walk around for a moment.

If your student feels self conscious, have him or her do something silly like lunges or a yoga pose. This is great practice for test day, when students often feel self-conscious in a room full of strangers. As a result, they just stay seated and fail to take advantage of the link between physical activity and energy levels.

Tutoring sessions are a great opportunity for you to help them overcome their anxiety about looking silly. At least once per session, encourage your students to stand up, breathe deeply, stretch their legs, and walk around the room.

3. Refuel Your Student.
Rarely do you find high quality test prep advice in a candy bar commercial, but the “You’re not yourself when you’re hungry” tag line from Snickers is actually quite good advice. Students are likely to hit mental blocks when they’re running on empty. Opinions obviously vary on which snacks are best for students, but it’s best to avoid candy, fast-food, and sugary drinks.

Personally, I recommend Clif Bars and Shot Bloks. Most everyone knows about Clif Bars, but the lesser known Shot Bloks are fantastic. Used primarily by athletes, these energy chews are pretty tasty, relatively cheap, and shelf-stable, which gives them a edge over refrigerated snacks like yogurt.

As a bonus, Shot Bloks available in a variety of flavors, and because they’re basically energy gummy bears, you can pretty effectively choose the dose of energy you need and avoid spikes or crashes. One word of caution, some flavors do contain caffeine, so read the packaging carefully if that’s an issue for you.

4. Know What Time It Is. 
In a college theater class, I got paired for a scene with a guy who worked nights driving a taxi. The class met in the late afternoon, but we had to meet outside of class to run lines and block out the scene. Scheduling was difficult, but eventually we settled on 8AM.

At 8AM the next morning, he showed up bleary-eyed after driving his taxi all night. All of a sudden I realized, my 8AM was his 3AM.

The larger point is that we’re not all on the same schedule. Some students feel fresh and alert at 4PM. Others need to relax for an hour or two before beginning homework or tutoring. Whatever the case, make sure you’re not scheduling sessions for time slots when your students are too tired to think.

Perhaps the worst time to schedule a sessions is immediately following athletic practices. You haven’t seen exhaustion until you’ve seen a high school water polo player studying for the SAT test with his hair still wet from the pool. If that’s his 3AM, respect that.

5. Check Your Posture.
Why your posture? Isn’t this list about improving the student’s energy? Sure, but your energy levels have a major effect upon how your students experience the tutoring. Don’t believe me?

Y - a - w - n!

Try to read that without yawning. More importantly, try to watch someone yawn without yawning.

While yawns are especially contagious, behaviors of all sorts are also contagious due to the psychological behavior known as mirroring. This phenomenon can be observed when one person subconsciously imitates the gesture, speech pattern, or attitude of another person.

This has the evolutionary benefit of helping humans build rapport, which is good. On the other hand, it can sabotage a student’s success if the mannerisms being mirrored are your bad posture and sleepy tutoring. On the contrary, if you sit up straight, use animated hand gestures, speak excitedly, and generally exhibit energy and enjoyment, then your student will subconsciously do the same.

With that in mind, it's worth revisiting this list from time to time to make sure that you're doing everything you can do to bring energy to each and every tutoring session.


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As the only provider of a 100% custom branded test prep system for tutors, we've had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of independent tutors and tutoring companies from across the country and around the world. This blog is our opportunity to bring you the insights we've been able to gather through those interactions. 

Each week we examine ways to help you become a better tutor, increase test prep score improvements, drive more tutoring referrals, and grow your tutoring business. And from time to time, we'll even share links to free resources for tutors and test prep professionals.  

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