19 Dec

First Lesson and Homework

I have just started tutoring math with a new student who is quite introverted. The first lesson was a little awkward and I’m not sure about assigning homework in such a situation and how that would mix with the relationship building side of things.
As far as the first tutorial is concerned, the main objective is not to pile on the maths homework but rather establish a base from which to operate.

If you are feeling awkward about setting homework the student will feel awkward receiving it. Always remember that you are the leader in this context and the student will generally accept whatever it is that you say is necessary.

The first lesson will set the expectation of how your next tutorial will be conducted and developing a good rapport with the student is by far more important than anything else. If they don’t like you they will not learn from you. Homework is a secondary consideration for the first tutorial.

We need to develop a “we’re a team” attitude between ourselves and our students. This should start in the very first tutoring session. Getting rapport is hard sometimes – especially if the student is a bit introverted as mentioned. The main point here is that if you feel awkward yourself it will make it much worse! You need to balance being friendly and being professional so that work gets done while the relationship with the student is not neglected but prioritized.

A general but effective approach is to simply communicate with your student! This is very important! If your lessons are a bit odd and that’s all, you will not be considered favourably after you leave. But if you talk to the student and demonstrate that you are considering their position it will help the situation. Ask what they liked or didn’t like in that first tutorial, what would they prefer be done differently next time? You need to actively resolve any “oddness” and showing the student that you care about their preferences will instil a respect and rapport.

Setting homework should be done in line with the attitude above. Usually we set extra work relating to what is currently being learned and if required some extra home work on past topics where there are gaps or weaknesses.

Obviously in the first tutorial there is still no precedent for the quantity of homework and you also do not know what the student is capable of completing at this point in time. If you are unsure about how much to set just write down what you think is appropriate and ask student if they’re cool with that amount. If the student is introverted just probe them a little and explain that tutoring is a team effort, communication is important and you do not want to give them more homework than they are willing to do. If they say it is too much work, stay true to your word and adjust what you have set – monitor the situation over the coming weeks.

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