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What Is The Difference Between A Tutor and A Teacher?

Teachers and Tutors may share similar responsibilities and tasks but they are not the same thing. This article outlines the key major differences, and helps you determine which you will need.

What is a teacher?

Teachers are often responsible for more than one student. In the United States, an Elementary teacher can have anywhere from 18 to 36 students. and is responsible for all of them. Offering personalized instruction for that many students instruction for that many people is hard if not down right impossible. Teachers have to teach the entire group.

A teacher may offer specialized instruction such as specific instrument or usable skills, or a teacher may be more of a Jack-of-All-Trades type individual with a broad general knowledge.

Teachers also have to deal with standardized testing as a way to get funding. Law makers respond to numbers, and while quantifying learning is a ridiculous concept, Law makers have to judge their decisions on something tangible.

A teacher may offer specialized instruction such as specific instrument or usable skills, or a teacher may be more of a Jack-of-All-Trades type individual with a broad general knowledge. Please remember that teachers are people, all at various points in their career and with their own challenges. A first year teacher will not have as much experience as a veteran teacher. But every teacher has to start somewhere. Please don’t devalue or demean a teacher new to the profession.

Money–Teachers are not what anyone in society would call well paid. But teachers with multiple students have a salary with a WPU (Weighted Pupil Unit), essentially the tax money set aside to educate a single student or pupil. Educational Funding is complicated and highly political. Suffice it to say that the more students you have, the more money you have with which to educate them.

What is a tutor?

Tutors tend to be hired to teach individual students or small groups. That takes the instructor to learner ratio down to 1:1 or 1:2 or 1:5. Tutors offer specialized instruction tailored to their individual student. Tutors can make a huge difference in the education of someone who has gaps in their learning or has missed school.

Tutors don’t necessarily need the same level of education a professional educator does. A high schooler could easily tutor a middle schooler in math. The only requirement is that the tutor has a sufficient knowledge of the material that needs to be taught. This can be a benefit and a disadvantage. Benefit, You don’t need to have a Master’s Degree to help them study for the SAT. Disadvantage: Your Tutor might not have much education, simply a little bit more education that you, the student has.

Money–Tutors often do not have a payroll funded by the state. Instead, parents or the student must foot the bill. This means tutors make less that Full time Teachers, but they also have less students.

During the Pandemic, a group of parents or students would band together to hire a tutor. The cost of the tutor is then split between each student, and the group can pay for a slightly better tutor. Then the ratio of Instructor to Student would go from 1:1 to perhaps 1:5 or 1:8. This option was popular with homeschoolers pre pandemic, but COVID 19 made this a more desirable option for more and more people.

Some organizations will pay for a tutor to help students. I worked for one funded by Utah State University called Gear Up (for college) that offered free tutoring to local students. I could help kids with their writing or their math; basically whatever they needed at the time.

So how do you choose?

Here is where the choice becomes a balancing game of Price vs. Quality of Education. Tutors aren’t subsidized by tax dollars, but teacher often have a much bigger Instructor to student ratio. Tutors may not have as much education, but they also don’t have to deal with standardized testing.

You have to consider demand for the subject matter as well. A Tutor may or may not be available to teach you Russian if it’s not offered at your local school. Fortunately, Online Tutoring Sessions have become more affordable and more varied with what is offered. You have to balance between what is available to you verses what you can afford.

As a final aside, please remember that teachers and tutors alike are all human beings, and that quantifying learning is extremely difficult.

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Emily Tuckett is a Middle School Science Teacher, and mother of two delightful girls ages 3 and 6. She lives in Utah with a great view of the Rocky Mountains. She enjoys panning for gold to teach about density, and watching Bluey with her daughters. She is a writer and scholarship coach.