Jul 18, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Have the knowledge and passion to help someone else? Tutor. Work with your local community center, school, or tutoring center to help change someone's life for the better. 

Teaching and tutoring are all about empowering others through education--and facilitating and nurturing the relationships that support it.

If your plan to make some extra cash and keep your academic skills sharp this summer involves tutoring, you're in good company. Many students--high school graduates, advanced high school students, and college students--tutor over the summer to help others and to cushion their bank accounts in between semesters.

If you're one of them, here are some tips for maximizing your students' experiences--and your own:

1. Communicate well

To be a good tutor requires that you have positive relationships with your students. To facilitate those relationships, you need to communicate well. 

What does that look like? It means having well-prepared lessons, clear meeting times, and clear expectations for you and your students during those meeting times.

It means taking the time at the start of every session to check in with your student, get to know them for a few minutes, and then asking them where they'd like to start. (See #2)

When you keep the expectations clear, and the space for questions open, you're more than halfway there. 

Another tip? Communicate regularly with parents and caregivers. Check-in and ask for their concerns and insights. If possible, you may want to contact your student's teacher, too, for further insight with an academic problem. 

2. Get to know your student

While content expertise helps, relationship building is nearly as important in tutoring as is the content.

The more you know about your student--background, likes, dislikes, interests, and skills, the better off you'll be, and the more successful your student will be. 

Start small. Ask about broad topics, like sports, music, or food. If your student is a non-traditional student ask about some facet of that, like living on a boat, or dancing in a professional troupe. If your student is international, you can ask about what it's like to live there, or how it was taught.

The key? Find something universal, and go from there. At every meeting, dig a little deeper. It builds trust, makes for a more enriching experience, and you get to learn something, too.

3. Choose the right place

You'll want someplace quiet, relatively distraction-free, and comfortable. Most tutors work in their students' homes. 

New environments can have positive effects, though. A library with group study spaces is great. If your lesson involves a specific concept that you can find in an art or science museum, consider that.

If your student can function in a cafe, you can meet, work, and have a snack together.

Outdoors can work, too, if your student doesn't get too distracted. A quiet park where you can easily take breaks and toss a frisbee might be just the ticket.

Bottom line: find a place that works. For every student, that answer may be different.

4. Be flexible

You need to adapt to what your student needs. No simple shortcuts. No easy tricks. Be willing to meet at a student's house, the library, or other specific location. Have a lesson plan or idea of what you think should happen in the session, but listen to your student and take it from there.

Don't be afraid to change the course of a session, postpone it, or approach it from a different angle. 

Your students will thank you and your sessions will be more productive. 

5. Tutor a subject you know well

You can make learning fun, interesting, rigorous, and thoughtful when you know your subject matter inside and out. 

When you know your subject, you can design project-based activities and go in-depth with your student. Your student also trusts you more because they know they can ask you nearly anything on the subject and you'll either have the answer or be able to find it. 

Learn more about teaching. 

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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