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Finding an Academic Coach

Finding a Coach

Academic coaching often requires a considerable investment of time, energy, and money. But just how do you find a good coach? What should you look for? How do you recognize a top professional private teacher?

Below are eight suggestions that will help you avoid common mistakes and make the right choice.

• Hire an experienced career professional

As with other professional services, you generally “get what you pay for” in an academic coach. It’s usually well worth the extra money to hire a career private teacher (look for at least 10 years documented experience) who is well known and respected by other educational professionals in your area and has a strong local track record and reputation to protect. Moonlighting classroom teachers, college students or recent grads, amateur tutors, or other “part timers” that charge lower fees but have another full-time salary to fall back on are more likely to provide inferior instruction and be less committed to your service and satisfaction.

Talk to teachers and administrators, organizations of local professional private educators, and other coaches listed online. Ask them for the names of the best academic coaches in your area. Teachers whose names keep coming up are likely to be your best bets.

• Avoid tutoring agencies or learning centers

Tutors who work through agencies or learning centers normally do so because they’re inexperienced and unable to get enough free referrals from satisfied clients to support their own practice independently. (They would if they could; tutoring services generally charge lower rates to begin with, and keep a large percentage of the fees collected as their commission.)

• Check the web site and business license

More established and successful coaches maintain their own web sites, blogs, and private business offices.

Beware of ads, however. The best private teachers get more than enough clients through “word of mouth” referrals, and generally don’t need to advertise.

Professionals will obey the laws governing businesses in their area; ask to see a copy of a current business license.

• Ask about membership in professional organizations

Serious professional private educators, like professionals in any other field, maintain active memberships in various professional organizations (e.g. the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, HIgher Education Consultants Association, Association of Educational Therapists, Bay Area Tutoring Summit, etc.) to keep abreast of cutting-edge trends and developments, develop and maintain business connections and resources, sharpen their teaching skills, etc.

• Inspect resume and references

Make sure the resume indicates sufficient educational background (bachelor’s degree or higher), many years of teaching experience in the appropriate subject area(s), and serious commitment to the field education. Get at least three current references, and call to interview each one. Excellent written references or testimonials documenting a long and successful private practice should also be available for your inspection.

• Set up appointments with different coaches

The right personal “chemistry” between student and teacher is essential to achieving superior results, and this kind of natural, mutual affinity is best assessed in person. It may be wise to consider trying out more than one coach for an hour or two before making your final decision.

• Examine marketing materials carefully

The level of care with which any professional markets his or her own business speaks volumes about the quality of work and commitment to excellence you can expect. Look for a well-designed Web site or information packet containing a cover letter, current resume, written references, list of services offered, business cards, etc.

• Conduct personal interviews

Set up face-to-face or online interviews with each coach on your short list; use these meetings to evaluate each instructor's personality, teaching style, and general level of professionalism, collect informational materials, and get answers to your questions. True professionals will be punctual, organized, responsible, and business-like. Expect to encounter excellent communication and personal skills, well organized teaching materials, and a clear (preferably written) explanation of fees and of payment and cancellation policies.

By doing careful research, hiring a professional, checking materials and references, and conducting personal interviews with more than one candidate, you can find the best academic coach for the job and make the most of your investment.


Copyright 2006-2017 Christopher R. Borland. All Rights Reserved.