My tutee and I don't share the same language or culture. We're having a hard time connecting.
Getting to know someone, even someone who shares your language and culture, takes effort. Instead of focusing on your differences, try to find things in common with your tutee: your religious beliefs, a special hobby, favorite pet, or even a favorite food can be a starting point to connecting with your tutee. Avoid using trendy or colloquial words that your tutee may have trouble translating or comprehending, or that otherwise emphasize your language barriers.
Tutoring at its most basic is about difference-specifically, the difference between what each of you knows about your tutoring subject-otherwise you would have nothing to offer as a tutor. But it's also about sharing what you know and closing the gap of difference between you.
My tutee comes from a lower socioeconomic background than I do, and doesn't have very much. I'm not rich, but I still feel guilty for and self-conscious about everything I have that my tutee can't have.
You can't change your tutee's economic circumstances, but you can minimize the appearance of financial inequality between you and your tutee. Leave expensive or trendy clothing, accessories and high-tech gadgets at home. Avoid talking about things you own or places you've visited if you believe that your tutee is unlikely to have similar experiences. The less attention you draw to your economic differences, the more you'll help your tutee focus on your time together.
Our tutoring sessions take place in a location that caters to people of my tutee's cultural background. I feel very out of place there, and it's hard to concentrate on tutoring.
If you can, relocate your tutoring sessions to a neutral environment. If this isn't possible, or if you think the change will make your tutee uncomfortable, do the best you can in your present location until you perceive that your tutee might be willing to change. Your tutee may notice and appreciate your willingness to accommodate her, which will increase the level of comfort and trust in your tutoring relationship.
Encourage your tutee to tell you about the location-its significance in the community, the people who meet there, any artifacts displayed. Welcome the opportunity to learn about your tutee's culture, and use the time to share something about your own culture.
Recently, my tutee shared a disturbing personal experience with me. I have never known anyone who had the same kind of experience, and I had no idea how I should act or what I should say.
Your reaction in this circumstance is critical to your tutoring relationship. Don't act shocked, whatever you may secretly feel. What may be a troubling experience for you may be routine for your tutee. Your tutee may trust you enough to share information that he's never shared with anyone. If your tutee detects judgment of any kind from you, you run the risk of alienating him.
Listen to your tutee. If he asks for advice, give it freely and wisely, without critical or judgmental comments. Don't feel responsible for coming up with a solution. If the situation your tutee describes is beyond your experience or your ability to handle the problem, get counsel from someone who has handled similar situations before. Act in such a way that your relationship with your tutee and your ability to tutor him will not be negatively affected by your awareness of his experience.