Mircoschooling, parents forming pods, and many families panicking to find school alternatives that are safe and educational have led to a rapidly growing opportunity for teachers to fill learning and caregiving gaps that public and private schools can not cover.
Because most students are beginning the year a semester “behind”, parents are more eager than ever to employ someone to work with their children one-on-one or in a small group to give them an advantage in catching up.
No matter the reasoning, many educators are taking advantage of the opportunity to either supplement their pay through tutoring or, if they are unable to return to the classroom, do more toward replacing the salary they’ll be losing this year.
There are some significant things new tutors need to do to make their experiences a bit smoother and more productive.
While you can use most of these ideas whether you choose to tutor in-person or online, for the sake of clarity, this particular article is being written primarily from the perspective of an in-person tutor unless otherwise stated.
Before you actually begin tutoring, there are quite a few decisions you need to make that may require some research. If you’re hoping to make enough to replace your income as a teacher, you’ll definitely want to research how to create a business plan if for no other reason than to keep from legal or tax issues.
Most tutors choose to work for themselves. There are tutoring agencies out there, but they all take a significant percentage of your pay in order to help you find clients and regulate things. Most of these agencies don’t even employ you, though - you’ll still have to be considered a freelancer or contractor, which means you’ll pay your own taxes outright (there is no withholding of taxes in this situation) and be responsible for business decisions.
The advantage of using a service or agency is that you don’t have to worry about advertising costs, and there are rules regarding everything from pay to attendance and beyond. Everything is established as far as the “interacting with students” aspect. In some cases, they will also provide resources you can use - either an online platform if you need to teach some lessons virtually, or curricular resources.
There are several types of small businesses, and depending on where you live, there are specific tax rules that will apply. Your best bet is to set up an appointment with a reputable, local CPA who can help you determine which direction to take and help keep you informed about tax information.
You will have to pay for these services, and they are not cheap, but navigating the waters of small business ownership without it could be a lot more costly in the long run.
Determine Who and What You’ll Tutor
Most people find they are comfortable teaching within a specific age range or in a particular subject. If you’re just tutoring students who are struggling with on-level curriculum, or who are hoping to get ahead (or possibly catch up to where they would be if they had been in class last spring), it may be fine to offer your services for just these particular ages and subjects.
Many people who are looking for viable options, though, may be the families of students who are the most challenged or very far behind. In this case, it may make more sense for you to teach older students who are on-level with the material you feel most comfortable using.
Still others are looking for tutors who will basically take over all the educational responsibilities of the children in their family, or to oversee the online education of children while they are at work. While the more care-centered focused jobs require less preparation and actual “teaching”, you’ll want to check education, homeschooling, and childcare laws in your area to assure you are operating within the required guidelines.
Determine When You’ll Tutor
Your first instinct may be to find a job and let your clients or students’ families determine what schedule works for them, but you need to decide what schedule works best for you and your family first.
In typical tutoring situations, tutors end up working evenings and weekends. Because of the pandemic, tutoring situations are much different now. You may be working with students during the day. You may be following an online school schedule or be asked to create your schedule.
You don’t have to determine your hours and refuse to ever change them, but thinking through what you’d really like to do with your time is very helpful when deciding exactly what types of jobs you’d like to take.
If you plan to tutor in a more traditional way, for only 45 minutes to an hour with each student, and with various individual students, plan some time between students for pick up and arrival, putting materials away and getting materials out, and working on notes. Giving yourself 10 to 15 minutes between students is usually just right.
Also, be sure that you don’t overcommit. Only take on the number of clients you can easily tutor. Let your students and parents know there are other students scheduled before or after them, as well. They must be prompt in their arrival and departure times for you to keep things running smoothly.
There are quite a few scheduling apps made for or easily adapted to be used by tutors. Consider looking into using one of these if you plan to tutor several individuals for shorter amounts of time. That way, parents can see your schedule and know that you have other students. It makes communication about possible dates and times much easier as well.
As a rule, it’s best to keep a particular day of the week and time as a student’s scheduled tutoring time. Some families want to just pick any day and time from week to week, but that causes utter chaos. If they choose a day and time, they’ll be more likely to remember the appointment and so will you! Otherwise, it just feels like all you’re doing is scheduling with that parent.
Of course, if you’re taking over the education responsibilities for one family, or even sharing responsibilities of several families, your time will likely be organized much differently. Some of these tutors are even helping one family in the morning, one in the afternoon, and another in the evening several times each week.
In our next article, we’ll talk about specific guidelines you’ll want to create and share with interested parents before tutoring begins.