We take teaching very seriously and have several pages of guidelines which our tutors must follow. Below are some excerpts from those guidelines as well as a few of our thoughts on how we approach what we do.
All our tutors have four qualities in common: a talent for teaching, subject mastery, demonstrated strength of character, and a record of academic/personal achievement. For test prep tutors, we test their ability to ace the test they will tutor and their ability (after they complete our training period) to teach our test prep methods successfully.
We are dedicated to our students' success. Tutoring sessions run by us must be intense and followed up by student assignments to insure mastery of the concepts covered. When we work hard, our students tend to reciprocate our efforts. We also want our students to share the tutor's love for the particular subject and thus try to convey it, but that being said, one of our tutoring guidelines is that "excessive enthusiasm is no substitute for diligence, concentration, and business-like hard work."
Here is an excerpt from our tutoring guidelines: Know your student's goal(s). You must have a goal for the course of tutoring with the student as well as intermediate and session goals for each student. Know what the student's goals are and determine measurable ways of achieving the final as well as intermediate goals. Identify secondary goals as well. A tutor of a student for the critical reading section of the SAT I exam may have as a secondary goal to interest the student in reading for fun (in addition to the primary goal of seeing a score improvement). A student who reads independantly is generally going to do better than one who doesn't--so secondary goals are not to be neglected though they're also a small part of the actual session (perhaps a 3-minute quiz on what the student read the past week). If the student is not making progress, talk immediately to your coordinator to brainstorm new approaches and modifications or a new plan for working with the student.
Students learn in different ways. We will try teaching topics using visual aids (many students are visual learners), using analogies and metaphors and using other teaching aids or alternative ways of describing/presenting a topic--to find some method which resonates with a student.
Below is another excerpt from our tutoring guidelines.
Tutoring must be interactive. Ask your student questions. Constantly. Tutoring is not lecturing, it's teaching--and the most effective means of teaching your student is engaging the student in the subject through lots of questions. The single most effective and necessary method in tutoring is asking questions. Questions bring the student to discover she either knows or doesn't know answers or the subject she's studying. The student should be doing a lot of the talking and work in any session. If you find yourself doing most of the speaking in tutoring sessions, something's wrong.
...Questions can range from the mundane to the profound (and should have roughly that range in a session). Questions can be simple such as re-arranging words of a sentence you just spoke...to see if a student is paying attention, or difficult such as asking the implications of a particular principle, or thoughtful such as assessing the importance of the idea or development, et cetera. If a student is struggling with an answer and has taken a minute or so to think, you probably should interrupt the student and help him or her or perhaps take over offering an answer.
Our homework assignments are precise. Make what is expected of the student explicit and clear. Part of our job as tutors is to break down what may seem to be an overwhelming assignment into manageable parts and to make sure that gets done (be an effective taskmaster).
Below is one more excerpt from our tutoring guidelines.
What you do for fun, what you read, what music you listen to, what hobbies you have will all be of interest to your students. You should share to a modest degree your interests and what you're reading in order to stimulate your students to explore and learn. If you don't read widely on your own, for example, it is unlikely your students will be inspired or moved to try to do so. If you, however, come to lessons with a different book every week which arouses your student's curiosity (you just have to carry it to the sessions; no need to even mention it, most students will ask you about it on their own), there is hope and a good hope that your student will start to get curious about your interests. The most crucial aspects for character development which may fall within the purview of a tutor's relationship with a student include encouraging the student to be open-minded and curious, to be thoughtful, to read widely, to resolve conflicts effectively, to work hard without giving up or being easily discouraged, and to set and achieve goals.