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Mendo Lake Family Life

How to Find an Empowering Tutor

By Baylor Odabashian

It’s no secret that after hundreds of hours spent staring at screens through the vacuum of a bad Internet connection, students might become somewhat jaded with the process of education during the age of COVID-19. It’s hard to blame them. It’s harder still to blame the teachers, who are valiantly striving to maintain the intellectual and moral growth of the next generation. Even if your teacher walks on clouds to the sounds of angel choirs, it is simply very hard to educate large groups of students through a screen. So if the problem is not individual, but utterly systemic what to do?

Well, engaging support from a different paradigm of education is a good start.

Ever since Aristotle taught Alexander the Great how to craftily judge character in ancient Macedon, tutors have been giving students individualized lessons. And just like then, today’s tutors have the opportunity to dynamically respond to students’ learning strengths and weaknesses.

Are your children perfectionists who don’t try new things because failure is frightful? Supportive tutors will give your children a safe place to fail, and in so doing teach the meta-lesson that dancing on the edge of imperfection is the fastest way to grow. Do your children feel isolated or ostracized at school, and are their grades slipping as a result? Empathetic tutors can connect with your children’s unique personalities and give them an emotionally safe place to study.

Do your children feel demoralized by a subject, convinced that they simply are no good at math, history, or music? Motivating tutors will show your students what they are capable of; and they will help your children develop healthy habits for combating anxiety and limiting self-talk. Are your children’s strong, curious minds constrained by the rigid structure of traditional schools? Creative tutors can follow your children’s passions and create a more flexible and self-motivated educational environment than is possible in a large class.

When you are interviewing tutors, make sure that they are bringing the right mindset to the job. Do they give you the impression that they will see your children as whole people with valuable insights, or do they only seem interested in presenting their own knowledge of an academic subject? Do they cultivate the human element of the tutor-student interaction or are they more about running down a checklist of study items for a test? Do potential tutors seem driven and prepared to work with your kids, or do they just assume that their superior knowledge will always show up to a lesson in a helpful way? Finally, do the tutors you are considering exhibit the sort of flexibility and self-reflection that will allow them to change their approach when their usual methods aren’t working? Will they have the humility to be learners as well as teachers?

Once you identify an excellent tutor, the vast and mind-expanding potential of an online classroom with a 1:1 teacher student ratio will reveal itself. COVID will not be the time when you child was isolated—it will be the time when she or he began to work closely with a mentor as never before. 

Baylor Odabashian is a tutor, musician, poet, DIY playwright, book swallower, ex-data analyst, and all-around action-geek with a passion for sharing the glory of human culture. At UC Berkeley, from where he graduated in 2016, he synthesized studies in music, anthropology, literature, and history to create his own major. Baylor has taught coding to children, English to refugees, and guitar to everyone from his peers to seniors. Today he teaches English, music, and history through his tutoring website, He lives in Fort Bragg but tutors remotely, worldwide.