A Tutor or a Teacher: What’s The Difference?

Although both tutors and teachers work with students within an educational framework, they are fundamentally different in terms of teaching approach, goal setting, the nature of the relationship between tutor and student, and the ways in which work time is scheduled and managed.

Let’s briefly discuss these differences in more detail.

  • Teaching Approach

Arguably, the classroom can at times be quite a chaotic educational setting. There are many students to work with and support in one space. Teachers do their best to cover the curriculum and assist students individually when possible. Their ability to work closely with a student is limited and they must approach the classroom with a “one size fits all” attitude. If MOST students in the class understood a concept, the teacher is likely to move on, which can leave students behind. In contrast, the tutoring setting is (most often) a one-on-one setting, where the tutor can individualize the teaching approach. Rather than being curriculum driven, the tutoring approach is tailored to address the student’s specific learning needs, whether those are organizational, content-related d, or something else.  Regardless of the tutor’s approach, what has been learned in class will be reinforced, whether directly or indirectly.

  • Goal setting

Goals set in the classroom are pre-determined; they are based on the governmental year-end expectations set for each grade. Teachers will make sure that they cover all the required notions before the end of year exams. Tutors, on the other hand, can set personalized goals with each of their students to best respond to their current academic needs. Some students will have shorter-term goals, while others will want to set some long-term goals. Some of these goals will be purely academic, while other goals might be l be more process based or directed towards how to be more organized and use time more wisely.  Tutoring provides the flexibility to work on study skills and other abilities that fall outside of the content itself.

  • Rapport

While the teacher and student relationship in school can be collaborative, it is limited due to obvious time constraints and the number of students in the classroom. Tutoring allows for the development of a strong rapport between tutor and student. Typically, they will meet for tutoring sessions on a weekly basis, over a long period of time, allowing the tutor to get to know their student on a deeper level than is possible in the classroom. It is common for tutors to be able to adjust the teaching approach in real-time because they know their students so well. Strong rapport also fosters a safe environment for students to make mistakes and be open about their academic weaknesses without judgement.

  • Optimal working environment

School hours cannot be modified, which means students must attend classes and meet with their teachers during school hours. Though this makes logistical sense for the well-being of all students in attendance, it is not always optimal for the individual student who works most productively in the evenings or on the weekends when they are well-rested. Tutors can schedule sessions at times that work best for each of their students. This is ideal to maximize tutoring time. Tutors are also able to choose a location that is optimal for their student. This might be at home, at a library, or even at a coffee shop.

The teacher-student relationship is structured, limited and more impersonal. For students who have learning disabilities or learning styles, a teaching approach can lead to falling behind or more overall academic difficulties. Tutoring on the other hand, is adaptable, flexible, and individualized, which helps students to receive the tailored academic support they need.

When looking for a tutor for your child, you should consider carefully whether an individual who is a teacher or has teacher training is a suitable tutor. Altthough this may sound counter-intuitive, individuals with prior tutoring experience, or generalized experience with younger age groups such as camp monitors, big brother/big sister roles or sports coaches might be a better tutoring fit for your child. They may be more open-minded about what your child needs and approach the tutoring situation with a more cooperative mind-set.