Start by telling the tutor about your child.
Be frank about your child’s proclivities as well as strengths and weaknesses, especially in terms of learning style. The tutor will also want to know about the child’s interests and activities in order to make a more personal connection. And be sure to let the tutor know early on if the parents are separated or divorced.
Is the tutor a good fit for your family.
Jeff Bernhardt, a bar/bat mitzvah tutor at Temple Israel of Hollywood as well as a private tutor, emphasizes “You want the child to do well, to learn the material, to succeed, but you want it to be a positive experience also and feel like there’s a relationship built and a connection and the child will enjoy the experience.”
Ask about the tutor’s experience.
Bernhardt has been tutoring for over 20 years, but he thinks that in most cases a couple of years is sufficient background. “Ideally you want to know the tutor has worked with a number of bar/bat mitzvah students, knows the material and is at least a year or two into it, if not more,” he said. If your child has learning issues or challenges, you’ll want to ask whether the tutor has had experience with similar students
Depending on the student’s background and what the learning goals are, the period of study is usually somewhere between 8 and 12 months. On average, a tutor will meet with the student for an hour a week dividing their instruction time into skills and other Judaic knowledge, which may include learning Hebrew or studying about the weekly Torah portion or an upcoming holiday. This schedule may change as the mitzvah nears depending on the need of the student.
You may also inquire whether the child will be taught to chant Torah and haftarah by rote or will be taught the trope system, which features special markings that indicate the musical phrasing to be applied to the texts.
Once a tutor has found the right strategies and tailored the process to the student’s strengths and abilities, then results can exceed expectations. The important thing to remember is that this is a process that requires time and patience.
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