How to Become a Better Middle School Tutor
As most Middle school tutors know, students this age tend to have an undeserved negative reputation for being disobedient, disinterested, and disruptive.
As a result, they're considered one of the most challenging age groups to teach, and many teachers and tutors will outright avoid working with middle school students.
While early adolescence is a transitional period in students' lives where they must contend with many new challenges and pressures, tutoring them is not necessarily any more difficult than tutoring students of other grade levels.
Do you want to become a better middle school tutor and more effectively support those students in your sessions? Consider some of these critical strategies.
Get to know your students
Middle school students—and, in fact, all students—tend to learn better when you connect with them on a genuine, human level.
Strong student-teacher relationships can:
- Increase student engagement
- Encourage student performance
- Help students feel more confident about asking questions or for help when they need it, which can help improve their overall academic performance
Take the time to develop a solid rapport with your students. Allow them opportunities to share their thoughts and interests.
Relate lessons, when possible, to their interests, hobbies, and learning styles. This simple step can help your students feel much more engaged in the learning process overall.
Teach with empathy
At one point in your academic journey, you were in the same place your students are now—dealing with complex peer interactions, increasingly advanced subjects, and a flurry of hormones!
Be empathetic and patient with your student as they navigate their learning journey. Share your past and your experiences with them. Show support and relate to them.
For example, you might note, "I used to think that algebra was tough when I was in middle school, too," or, "I had trouble writing papers when I was in seventh grade."
In fact, those empathetic notes can offer you the perfect opportunity to transition to a new way of looking at a difficult concept or problem, which may help students feel more confident about their overall learning experience.
Always be patient
Middle school students, and, indeed, all students you work with, need your patience more than almost any other attribute.
Check in with students periodically throughout tutoring sessions to see how they're really progressing.
Remember, it's not just about the lesson you intend to teach or a specific plan you've put in place.
Instead, it's about overall student progress and understanding of the material. If you're working with a student struggling to grasp a particular concept, frame it as an opportunity to explore alternative methods of instruction.
You may also want to:
- Encourage students to ask as many questions as they need to in order to understand the lesson. Tutoring is the perfect chance to deepen student learning and ensure that they comprehend a new concept, but they can't take advantage of it if they don't ask those vital questions.
- Give students plenty of time to work through problems.
- Tailor the pace of your lessons to each individual student.
Patience is critical as you work with a student, particularly on concepts they may find more difficult or challenging. A little patience can make all of the difference in overall student performance and capability.
Foster their self-esteem
Middle school students are still developing their sense of self-esteem. Self-esteem in middle school students often declines dramatically.
During these years, students seek validation from peers, parents, and educators—and as a tutor, you're in the ideal position to help encourage overall self-esteem and build students up.
Be a champion for their accomplishments. Praise them when they work through problems. Bolster them if they feel shaky about their understanding of challenging concepts.
As a tutor, you're not just building a student's skills in a specific content area—you also have the potential to help build up the student.
The language you choose and how you relate to the student can increase their confidence and interest in mastering challenging concepts.
Students in middle school have a lot on their plates.
At this age, they're often digging deeper into extracurricular activities even as they deal with the challenges that often accompany middle school, including challenging interactions with peers, hormones, and increasingly complex courses.
Their moods and engagement may fluctuate dramatically from one tutoring session to the next. One of the top tips for tutoring middle school involves paying attention to those needs and exercising flexibility.
Be prepared to pivot your teaching methods to adapt to your students' needs and preferences—and be aware that those needs may change between sessions, often unexpectedly.
Come into your tutoring sessions with a general game plan, but have alternative instruction methods handy if your student doesn't respond well to your initial strategies.
Be prepared to pivot as needed. You may not accomplish as much in your tutoring session as you had initially hoped. You may even work on a concept you didn't expect to deal with on that particular day.
However, by exercising that critical flexibility, you may find that you're better prepared to address the real needs of your students—and to keep them engaged in their tutoring sessions.
Are you prepared to become a better middle school tutor?
Improving middle school tutoring is an ongoing process—but it's one that's well worth it.
During this formative stage of life, you have the prime opportunity to help nurture students' love of learning in a way that will last a lifetime.
Middle school students respond to the same tutoring methods all students do. Your patience, support, empathy, and flexibility can make a huge difference in how you connect with those students.
Are you considering sharing your knowledge with middle school students to help them achieve academic success? We encourage you to apply to join the Pear Deck Tutor (formerly TutorMe) community today!