I am in Europe at the moment and I am curious to find out what tutors here do to have a successful tutoring practice... in other words, I am curious to know how they do it :)
It seems that most of the tutors are still stuck with the old methods of teaching - "I know everything and my students learn what I say" or "Questions from students on things I have already taught them is a sign that they have not done their homework or memorized the material". Unfortunately, you can see the same methods in private extra-curricular schools where students are supposed to get a "different" learning environment than the one in their public schools. It seems that teachers use the same methods of teaching expecting different results. I have heard so many parents say: "We paid so much for a private tutor and my kid hasn't learned anything more than what they teach at school." And I am not surprised. I tried to explain to a friend of mine that she should have a better understanding of how a private tutor approaches their students and how they teach the material. This preliminary "interview" is necessary in order to set the expectations on both sides.
Another conflict I see in Europe is the fact that word-of-mouth is extremely strong and yet parents and students are not happy with a tutor. So how do people refer tutors to their friends if they are not happy with the service? I mean the concept of "word-of-mouth" suggests good (or bad) publicity and yet tutors get referred although they haven't really been entirely helpful. My only guess is, if a tutor has a certain old fashioned teaching style and has, say, 20 students, 7 or 8 of them will find this style appropriate for their learning style and the results will actually be satisfactory. It could be a match between teaching and learning styles, help from the parents, or short-term learning achieved only for a test at school and later disappears. The rest of the students will struggle with this teaching style. They will not find it helpful. However they will reluctantly continue attending the lessons because 7 or 8 of thier friends find the tutor good. Applying the old fashioned thinking, parents compare their kids to the successful ones and think that their kids are not smart enough to achieve what the 7 or 8 other kids have achieved. In other words, if a tutor is referred by so many (7 or 8) kids, my kids should be able to learn as well regardless of their continued poor academic performance. In fact, their poor performance is due to my kids' lack of learning skills/habits and the fact that they are not as smart as the other 7 or 8 kids. How strange is it that no one even for a second entertains the idea of trying another tutor? Or two? Or three? Finding a tutor is difficult. It is sometimes related to poor qualifications or teaching skills. But most times it is related to a mismatch in learning objectives of the tutor and learning style of the student. Often it is related to a mismatch in personalities if you will. I am amazed how this possibility doesn't even occur to parents or even adult learners.
Somehow in North America, and more specifically Canada, the choice of a tutor is a process rather than a one-time event. Instead of deciding to go with a tutor only because their friends are happy with him/her, students require to meet and talk with this tutor ahead of time. The so-called trial lessons are extremely popular and important. All of my tutor friends offer trial lessons and consider meeting with the student before both sides decide if they want work together. At the trial lesson the student asks questions about teaching methods, homework, etc. The tutor explains what the expectatations are and how they are going to help the student reach their goals. One of the first questions I always ask my new students at the trial lesson is: "Why do you need these lessons? What do you need to learn English for? Is it for work or for fun?". These are important matching points - can we work together and how do I need to approach this student so I can teach them in the best for them way?