What If You Fail To Improve Your Student’s Performance?

As a tutor, the impact you can make on a student’s academic life cannot be denied. At the end of any tenure with a student, they would usually thank you for your work and efforts, and they would remark at how much the student has improved. For the successful students, your tutoring function has helped them set a good foundation for further academic success, even success in life.

However, there are always those students where it seems that you are not as effective as you would like to be, and in the end, the relationship does not work out. The end result is that the student makes minimal or even no improvement in their performance, and once you as a tutor is made clear of that by the parent or even the student before the parent ends the tutoring service, it is not a good feeling. I know this from experience.

So who should take responsibility for the student not improving? Well, there are two main parties:

1) The student

Maybe the student just wasn’t the right fit for you, or maybe the student wasn’t receptive enough to your teaching, or maybe they are too far gone in the fact that they are too far behind in class that getting them up to speed before a certain deadline is beyond your capability as a tutor. There is also the possibility that the student was never really invested in the service you provided. Maybe they didn’t heed your advice to maybe work on certain areas or get ahead in the class. Maybe you and your student were never able to build the rapport required for a functional and effective relationship. Or maybe your personalities are just too different. In this instance, yes, you should still take responsibility as a professional, but it’s not your fault.

2) The tutor

This might not be something you will want to hear as a tutor, but sometimes you are culpable for failing to improve a student’s performance. Yes, tutoring is only a supplementary piece to a student’s academic success, but don’t forget that we are crucial because the help that we give a student is tailored to the student we are assigned. Now, if the student’s performance does not improve during our time with them. It could be due to a multitude of factors. Maybe we didn’t focus on the right things during our sessions and didn’t target their weaknesses effectively. Or maybe our effort to build rapport or effectively communicate with the student was lacking. Or maybe we were distracted by other factors in our lives, and that affected our performance as tutors. Maybe we didn’t adjust our approach to the student based on their personality and needs. Maybe we were too tough on them when we should have been more lenient, or we were too lenient when we should have been tougher. Maybe we challenged them too much, or didn’t challenge them enough. There are many reasons why their performance didn’t improve, and if you know that maybe you have something to do with it, it is not a good feeling to know that the client wasted money on a failed endeavor.

So now that we know what can cause a student’s performance to stagnate despite the benefit of tutoring, what should we do as tutors if this happens? We here are my suggestions:

1) Take responsibility

Whether it is your fault or not, you had a large responsibility to aid and empower that student, so you should take responsibility no matter what. It shows maturity and professionalism, and it opens up the possibility to do better.

2) Have self-awareness

Evaluate your performance as a tutor, and see where the mistakes were made. Use these self-evaluations to improve your technique for future students. Being a tutor is a learning process, and we should improve every session.

3) Be willing to accept failure again

Not every student can be a slam-dunk. There is a high possibility of another failure, and we must be prepared for that again. Some assignments are simply beyond our capabilities as a tutor. Yes, Top of the Class makes sure we are assigned in a way that we as tutors are the best possible option for the student, but once you are in the midst of tutoring the student, multiple other variables come into play which can affect your performance, so just understand that.

4) Do you best

We are not just tutors, but we are human beings. We all have character flaws, and we all have limited capabilities. Yes, the end goal is to help the student reach their potential, but the most important way to do that is to simply do your best. Use every skill you have at your disposal, leave no stone unturned, and then live with the results.

You will fail sometimes. That is just how the world works, that is how life works. This includes failure in our tutoring services. Despite this, we must continue to do our best, because you never know the positive impact we can possibly make on a student’s future.

If you have any specific questions, contact Pamela, Melody or Stuart at the Head Office or visit the Tutoring Sydney website.

About Dan Amazona

Dan has always been a high achiever with a particular strength in mathematics. He achieved an impressive ATAR, came DUX of his school and is now in his final years at Monash University studying to become a rocket scientist and TOTC home tutor.

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