“Education has always been my thing,” says Eldridge, an elementary teacher with Prince George’s County Public Schools who’s been tutoring since she was 15. “And I want to give my knowledge to all the kids who need it. I try to make it really hands-on and geared toward what they like.”
Eldridge is certified as a teacher for grades one through six, so those are the ages she prefers to tutor, though exceptions occasionally arise. When she first makes contact with a prospective client, she asks the student to complete an assessment “based on Common Core state standards, which helps me see where they need help. Then I create a plan and send it to their parents to review, and they determine how many hours they’d like me to tutor for.”
Eldridge tutors one-on-one, usually meeting with students three nights a week, though one client recently expressed interest in five nights a week. Sessions are typically an hour — held in the client’s home or at the local library — and she spends about 30 minutes preparing for each.
Most kids need help with math, reading or science, and Eldridge gears sessions to each student’s learning style. For example, “I have one of my students keep a binder of vocabulary words she comes across that she doesn’t know,” she says. “Then I have her write them down and define them.” But even the most studious kids get antsy easily and don’t like to sit still for an hour-long lesson, so Eldridge says the key is taking breaks, switching between favored and less favored subjects, and sprinkling in attention-grabbing activities. “Another of my students likes games, so I taught him how to multiply fractions using Uno cards,” she says.
Since she’s off during the summer, Eldridge has a lot of time to tutor, and business is steady — she recently spent three hours at a local library tutoring a summer school student on his assignments. During the academic year, she works evenings and, when necessary, on weekends.
How she got the job
Eldridge started tutoring at an aftercare program as a high school student, helping younger kids with reading and math homework. She then pursued a degree in elementary education at Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, N.C., followed by a master’s at Trinity Washington University.
Though Eldridge has generated some business via online services such as Wyzant, which connects tutors and students, she prefers to operate independently. “They don’t let you give your personal email address out, and they take a percentage of your money,” she says.
Eldridge is listed on the Knowledge Roundtable, an online tutoring marketplace, and she advertises her business on Craigslist and her website; plus she gets referrals from clients.
Who would want this job
You’ve got to be passionate about education, learning and children (if that’s the age you’ll be tutoring), Eldridge says. “Some people go into it thinking, ‘Oh, I can make some quick money by helping this child out,’ but you have to actually know how to assess children and learn different strategies for their specific learning style.”
She recalls the time a kindergartner she’d been teaching to read was able to recite an entire paragraph by himself. “I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I did that!’ ” she says. “That felt good. Sometimes I feel like, ‘You don’t even have to pay me; I did what I wanted to do.’ ”
How you can get the job
You can work with a big tutoring service, like Kaplan or Sylvan Learning, or sign up with a website like Wyzant or Varsity Tutors. “It really is” possible to do it as a solo venture, Eldridge says, but be patient: “It took me a couple months to find clients.” And consider being flexible with your rate, especially at first: While it’s common for tutors to charge up to $90 or more an hour, Eldridge believes she attracts more clients by charging a comparatively low $35 per hour.
She adds that anyone with a special skill set can tutor, but a lot of clients prefer to hire those who are also teachers certified in the areas they’re tutoring.
“I usually give a copy of my transcripts to people so they can see all the courses I’ve taken,” she says. “It’s all about being comfortable with your tutor. If you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to learn anything.”