When I look back on 30 years or so as a tutor, I recall just how lonely the profession can be. By definition, tutors cannot technically work alone, in that every tutor needs at least one tutee, as it were. But professionals crave connection with others who deeply understand their art, their craft, their trials and tribulations.
My, how the tutoring world has changed. We truly live in a golden age where tutors can connect with peers, mentors, and friends all over the world. Obviously, social media changed the game entirely, as all my test prep peeps in Test Prep Tribe can attest. But these remote connections can–and often do–facilitate face-to-face relationships in what we still (usually) consider the real world.
Few experiences deliver the levels of unexpected joy that occur when a group of tutors come together in person. If you’ve never had the pleasure, I highly recommend what can become an addictive aspect of your professional life. Over the last three years, I’ve been part of the planning committees of some major professional development events, including three multi-day test prep conferences. The most recent of these, the June 2022 National Conference of the National Test Prep Association in Atlanta, may hold the distinction of being the single largest gathering of independent test prep professionals ever. It was almost certainly the best I’ve ever attended.
What’s so great about getting together with other tutors and education professionals?
The first and perhaps most powerful impact of entering a room filled with far-flung peers is the verification that you are not alone. Whatever your educational service or business model, you can rest assured others travel the same path and face the same challenges. You may find that hard to believe sometimes, but seeing truly is believing.
The reason conferences are so successful can be traced to one simple truth: when members of a given industry come together, they
drink talk. Very often, as professionals, we know far more about our domains than we can share with clients. What a relief, then, to be able to talk ‘inside baseball’ and share industry news and maybe hot gossip with those who share your passions.
None of us are islands, even if we spend most of our time working one-to-one with an endless stream of students in libraries, Zoom rooms, and coffee shops. There is no better cure for creeping isolation than festive socialization, the easy camaraderie of those who experience the same daily challenges and rewards you do.
Another often unspoken benefit of meeting others in your field comes down more to ambition than information. Some of your colleagues approach the same business from different angles, having reached levels of success you currently only dream of. Meeting, chatting, and learning how they progressed inspires aspiration and, if you can keep the spark alive long enough, action.
When like-minded spirits convene, break bread, and share meaningful ideas, is it any wonder some of them seek ways to work together? If your dream projects are mired in stagnation, meeting with peers may be just the jumpstart you need to move forward, possibly even with a partner or two.
Conferences represent a powerful way to bring colleagues and rivals alike together in ways that benefit individuals and industries alike. For-profit education, particularly the front lines where tutors and test prep professionals operate, used to lack the social infrastructure enjoyed in other fields, but we’re starting to make major strides in that area. If you haven’t met other tutors like you yet, seek them out. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel both professionally and personally once you do. The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other.
— Mike Bergin
Hilarie Lloyd is a tutor based in Pittsford, NY who focuses on SAT/ACT prep and college essay coaching.
What are three resources your practice depends on?
Chariot Learning’s proctored practice tests, Mathchops, and the Chariot Learning (TestBright) SAT/ACT curriculum
What is one more resource you strongly recommend?
Tests and the Rest podcast 🙂
What is one insight every tutor should hear?
I think teachers have a powerful impact on young people they work with, and enthusiasm is contagious. If you get excited about the material, the whole process is a lot more fun! Don’t be afraid to personify numbers, tell quirky stories that illustrate a grammar rule, or connect every lesson to frogs. (Unless you have a student who is terrified of frogs, as I did once – then you can pivot to making everything connect somehow to echidnas.)
Tutor Tips, Tools, and Thoughts
The Stubborn Myth of “Learning Styles”
Are you still implementing ideas about preferred modes of learning?
Crafting Your Origin Story
What is your tutoring origin story?
Is It Time To Ban Computers From Classrooms?
The case against devices in the classroom grows stronger. Does this apply to tutoring as well?
How to Choose a Perfect Business Name
Choosing a name for a tutoring business can be really tricky if you don’t want to use your own name.
The Secret to Being Lucky
Recognizing the utter contingency of one’s own advantages has advantages.
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