After hearing about the details of a student’s educational situation and determining the best tutor/coach fit for that student, the question of where to conduct the tutoring quickly arises. When I ask, “would you like to do the tutoring remotely or in person,” there is typically a pause and a moment of consideration before asking for my recommendation. So, here is my recommendation…

Let’s just throw out the possibility of tutor-coaching for anyone under the age of about 12. Generally speaking, they get very little out of the experience, and certainly not enough to warrant the expenditure of financial and temporal resources. They just can’t sit still, focus, and engage for any sustained period of time, and technical glitches of any kind immediately ruin them. So let’s set that aside.

Once to get to about Junior high or the teenage years, remote tutoring is possible, and at times, superior to in person tutoring. The plus of doing tutoring remotely is it’s incredible convenience. It can be done anywhere: at home, in your pajamas, at the pool, in the car. That convenience shouldn’t be overlooked, particularly for high school students who live lives of decapitated chickens. Having to schedule a sit down appointment, while familiar to them, is like putting the cranberry sauce on an overcrowded Thanksgiving plate. It may promise deliciousness (to most!), but sometimes there just isn’t room. This fact alone typically allows for more meeting time and subsequently more academic and personal progress.

A second positive to weigh is the advantage of being ‘inside a kid’s computer,’ the way I like to put it. For instance, if you’re working on an essay, you are screensharing that document and experiencing first hand every keystroke and deletion. It eliminates the awkwardness of peering over a student’s shoulder and gives more ready access to online resources like a thesaurus or research from databases. It can be very nimble in this way, and efficiently provides all the power of the internet at the easy disposal of both tutor and tutee at immediate disposal.

The biggest downside to online tutoring that I can see is that tends to smudge the humanness of the tutor/tutee. While unmistakably intimate and personal, their medium is just a moving image with sound at the end of the day. When you exit the meeting, you quickly realize that you were by yourself, really, and awake from the dream feeling like it was all a hallucination. I find this effect to be mitigated if you have already met a student in person at least a few times before. If you know, like ‘body-know’ that a person is actually real, the remote experience offers a bit more reality than without that familiarity. It tends to cement the personal bond.

The only other reason I can imagine for choosing in person tutoring versus remote would be the specific tendencies of the student. If the student has such incredible ADHD that they can’t focus on a screen for more than ten minutes without shutting down and escaping, then you would probably want to avoid it. Behaviorally, if a student is so avoidant that they dodge the sessions evasively, sometimes arranging for the tutor to come in person cuts off the escape hatch, so to speak. These rationales make complete sense, but they are typically highly subjective, so I would hesitate to assign any universal opinion about them.

While both formats have their strengths and weaknesses, the ideal to me is to hold a few initial sessions in person to form a personal bond and then progress to a more remote approach after these initial sessions for the flexibility and productivity. While not always possible, practicality must be considered, this is the gold standard in my mind.