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The 5 Traits Your Tutor Must Have: A Tutor Hiring Check List

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When Jake and I started, we made plenty of mistakes (as entrepreneurs tend to do) and hiring the right tutors is high on the list.

I know the difficulty in recruiting tutors is universal, both for our industry, and for any family looking to give their kids excellent resources. The perception about what makes a great tutor is wrong.

As parents, we all expect that a great student at a good local college, or a perfect scorer on the SAT, will be the best teacher for our child. In the past, Jake and I would too often onboard a tutor we were thrilled about: Ivy League pedigree? Check. 99th percentile on the SAT? Check. Has years of tutoring experience? Check. Put them in front of a student, though, and it’s a different story. In fact, our team only hires about 1/3 of the perfect scorers that apply. So, if these benchmarks aren’t a good fit, how can you be sure that your tutor won’t become a crutch and will be the best possible role model for your child?

In listening to Revolution Families talk about what they love about our tutors, and listening to friends’ concerns about finding a tutor, and looking closely at our own ranks, Jake and I struck on these five traits. In fact, they are so core to a child’s success that the traits really haven’t changed that much over the years. While that’s the case, we have continuously developed better ways of spotting and developing these qualities among our tutors and building them in every Revolution Student.

We may not always be able to choose our kid’s teacher at school; we can, however, get picky about their tutor. Your child’s success is too important not to share this checklist with you.

Keep these traits in mind as you look into tutor options for your family:

1. Empathy

To be an effective teacher, you need to be able to see things through your student’s eyes, not just your own. When speaking with tutor candidates, a genuine interest in others’ perspectives is the first thing we look for.

2. Subject Matter Mastery

As one of the first steps in the hiring process, we give all candidates a test in math and reading comprehension concepts that we believe every teacher needs to know cold. You could probably find a similar type of quiz online and I don’t think it is too much to ask to make a tutor complete it as part of your hiring process. We have interviewed over 10,000 candidates and have asked each of them to complete our test. The combination of these first two things—empathy and subject matter mastery—will usually result in a really great tutor. Add in the next 3 traits and you will be able to find a rock star tutor.

3. Experience

Tutoring is like any craft: the more you do it, the better you get. When we measure experience, we measure hours rather than years. The vast majority of tutors you can find work part time and it can be hard for part-time tutors to fill their days with tutoring students. Working with a couple students each semester over five years may only mean several hundred hours of experience. Revolution Tutors average 1,200 hours tutoring students each year; and all of our top tutors have tallied more than 10,000 hours total with students. Check out Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule. It’s pretty cool.

4. Passion

The best students and the best teachers have passion. As part of our tutor hiring process, applicants must submit a video in which they teach us about something they love. The purpose of this exercise is three-fold: 1) it ensures they embrace technology as much as we do; 2) it shows us that they have the guts to put themselves out there and teach from the heart; and, 3) it lets us see that they are truly passionate about something. We have found that it can really be passion for anything—opera, travel, eastern medicine, the philosophy of mathematics. That enthusiasm spreads to their students and it helps students connect the material to something they themselves are passionate about.

5. Growth Mindset

If you are familiar with Revolution Prep’s teaching philosophy, you know that growth mindset is one of the key traits that we aim to build in every student. What you may not know is that this is a quality that we work hard to build in our faculty, as well. We believe a growth attitude should permeate every tutoring session and that it needs to come from the tutor, as well as the student. Conversely, fixed mindsets are contagious; can reward the wrong behavior and they are harmful to success in the long run of college and a career. Fortunately, this trait can be learned and reinforced in both your student and any tutor you hire.
 

This is really the tip of the iceberg; and while I could share origin stories for each of these traits, I’ll stop here. I hope these five traits will help you as you weigh different options for your child. I love hearing from families (both new and old to Revolution). If you have questions about these traits and want to know how we test for them, email me or find me on Facebook and Twitter. I’d love to hear from you.


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Ramit Varma  

Helping parents navigate the politics and the jargon. Math. Test Prep. Learning. I co-founded Revolution Prep with the goal of profoundly improving students’ lives.


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