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A few weeks ago, I caught up with a former student. He’s proudly slogging his way through his junior year as a science major at an Ivy-level university, so most of the stories he shared with me were about impossible exam curves and all-night study sessions. Bags under his eyes confirmed his exhaustion, but the sparkle in his eyes validated his enthusiasm for everything he’s learning.

It’s spring, so our conversation inevitably turned to summer. I asked him if he had an internship or job for this year.

He told me enthusiastically about his internship in an on-campus lab— barely paid, but great experience. 

And then he mumbled, “Yeah. I’m tutoring, too.”

“Wait— what? Tutoring for what?”

He named a local test prep company— an expensive name I’d heard bouncing around my students’ chatter for several years. 

I stared, incredulously. I remembered conversations with this student back in high school, when he told me repeatedly that he “wouldn’t touch teaching with a ten-foot pole.” 

“I know. Don’t say it,” he laughed, reading my expression. “Honestly, the money is better than anything else I’ll do this summer. And, I mean, the kids want to be there, right?”

(I wondered how many students truly want to be reviewing practice tests for the SAT or ACT during summer, but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.)

I asked him what the application process was like. All he needed to do, he said, was submit his SAT scores and his current college transcripts, and then participate in a brief interview.

“It was basically like, sign the paperwork, you’re in,” he said. 

Training? “Well, they gave me a handbook,” he said. “There are some test-taking strategies, like the latest tricks that I have to share. But basically, I’m just supposed to coach kids on whatever section they need help on.”


[su_pullquote align=”right”]The contrast between a college student’s summer gig and the experience offered by our tutors could not be more dramatic.[/su_pullquote]Don’t get me wrong— I’m happy that my former student has landed a job this summer that will pay him what I suspect is a better hourly rate than I make as a full-time teacher, if I ever dared to do that math. Because I’m an idealist, and because I know that he’s both smart and engaging, I’m choosing to believe that his summer work as a tutor will minimally do no harm— and hopefully even help some students to learn the ‘tricks’ that might improve their scores a few points.

But my former student is not a teacher. He’s planning to be a scientist, with a focus in research. He’s a super-cool college student who can tout super-great SAT scores from a few years back, and he’ll eventually be amazing in his professional role. He has little desire to improve how he communicates concepts to high school students beyond this summer job. If his handbook provides strategies to review the hottest test-taking strategies while students meet with him for an hour a week, that’s enough for his June and July gig.

Maybe his students’ scores will even go up a few points. But are they really learning?

The contrast between my former student’s summer gig and the experience offered by our tutors at Back to Basics could not be more dramatic.

All tutor candidates— even for test prep tutoring— must have 1-2 years of direct teaching or tutoring experience to even be considered for a position. That experience must stretch beyond a teaching assistant or substitute role. 

What that means: Tutor candidates must know their way around education. They must have already made decisions to prioritize teaching and learning.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Because we believe so strongly that learning is an individual journey, we need our tutors to be able to customize an approach to work with each learner.[/su_pullquote]After an initial resume review, qualified candidates participate in a brief pre-screening interview with our director. Those who show an aptitude for customized 1-on-1 teaching are invited to a longer interview on-site at our headquarters. When members of our interview team agree that a candidate would be a good fit for a tutoring position, we check a minimum of three references who are able to comment on past performance in education. And after this process, if a candidate is hired, they get more than a handbook. We ensure that every tutor completes a new hire orientation and has ongoing support in order to provide the best possible support to students.

We hire educators who know how to adjust, adapt, and invent new approaches to best meet unique student needs. Our tutors go beyond the basics to ensure that we’re making connections between students, parents, and classroom teachers.

Our tutors know that teaching comprises more than tricks, and pedagogy includes so much more than you can find in a handbook.

They might not always be quite as cool as the college kids— but we promise you that they will prioritize your child’s learning.

It’s a lot more than just a summer gig. 

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