How Tutors are Finding a Home

From LA to NYC, Tutor Jillian Roberts Finds Community

Jillian Roberts is a math, reading, and writing tutor, who specializes in the SAT, ACT, and other standardized tests. She’s a native of Los Angeles and a recent Brooklyn transplant who’s been tutoring for colleges and agencies for ten years. With test-prep season in full-swing, I met up with Jillian to discuss how she helps students prepare for big exams, what she loves about tutoring, and why she joined Book&Table. The following interview has been edited and condensed.

I have to know everything ten different ways—but still, I’m finding there are times when I need to know a concept eleven ways. If those ten ways don’t work, I go home and learn more.

What initially drew you to tutoring and what about the profession made you want to continue?

I really liked asking people questions to get them to figure out the answer on their own. Instigating an epiphany—the Socratic method—though I didn’t know it was called that when I first started.

When it comes to tutoring, what are your goals? How do you think you could grow as a tutor?

I’m definitely always improving; I don’t think there’s an end to that. Whatever the student is thinking, I want to take our learning process from that point. In order to do that, I have to know everything ten different ways—but still, I’m finding there are times when I need to know a concept eleven ways. If those ten ways don’t work, I go home and learn more.

And that [approach] gives me not only a better way to teach a student, but also better ways to relate different subjects [on the SAT or ACT] to each other. For somebody who thinks that they’re very literary-minded, that they can’t do math, I can show them how math is actually language. And the opposite is also true: if a student thinks they’re very mathematically-minded, but writing essays is confusing, I can show them that that’s not the case—because they already have those tools. They know abstract reasoning, and I know they know at abstract reasoning because they're good at math.

[When I first started tutoring in high school] I was literally stapling posters on telephone poles.

How did you first get into tutoring? What started this journey for you?

When I was younger [in high school], I would just babysit kids on the block, and while I was there, I would help them with their homework. I found I was pretty good at it, so I started putting up ads. I was literally stapling posters on telephone poles, back when that was a thing.

So you’ve just moved from Los Angeles to New York and you’re trying to start up your business now. How are you getting your tutoring business going and what are your goals in New York?

I really had to rely on word of mouth from people in Los Angeles, but other than that, I didn’t know how to get in contact with a whole lot of people, which is why I’m on Book&Table. I’m hoping to make a lot more new contacts through B&T, and to get my current clients excited about Book&Table, too.

This is really the first time that I’ve ever felt like there could be a tutor community . . . I’m quite thrilled to have a small stack of business cards from tutors that I know and trust.

How have you used Book&Table to grow your business?

Well, I’ve expanded my tutoring network dramatically. Through Book&Table’s Happy Hour events, which are way more fun than I thought they were going to be by the way, I met a great deal of tutors who I feel like I can now recommend to others. Knowing other tutors has always been a difficulty. A lot of people aren’t aware of the isolation in this industry. Even when I was working through agencies, I rarely ever met any of my colleagues, so I had no one to recommend for subjects that I don’t cover. This is really the first time that I’ve ever felt like there could be a tutor community. To me, that’s a big deal because I always want to improve my own work, and I can do that by exchanging tips with other tutors. I like to know what books they use and why, how they deal with particular types of learning issues. I’m quite thrilled to have a small stack of business cards from tutors that I know and trust.

What makes Book&Table stand out from the competition?

With other tutoring platforms, I have to sacrifice about half of my hourly pay or charge a client twice what I’d like to in order to compensate for the platform’s charges. Book&Table dramatically reduces those costs by charging a third or a quarter of what other platforms do [and only to clients the tutor hasn't found on their own, outside the platform]. Plus, Book&Table has higher standards for tutors and is much more customizable for clients. I like that my profile isn’t just one of a thousand that a client is going to have to rummage through. [In those situations] people tend to choose a tutor randomly out of frustration, or by the lowest price tag, rather than by qualifications. I guess I like Book&Table for all the reasons that it was created. Oh, last but not least, Book&Table is by far the prettiest of all the tutoring sites. On the aesthetic front, there’s no competition.

I think [it’s best] to give a tutor all of the information that you have, and to ask for a game plan.

Who is your ideal test-prep client?

I love working with students who want to work really hard, and who want to succeed.

What are some things you wish students did less of?

Give excuses. And procrastination. I generally wind up with a lot of hard-working, excellent students, who also have great attitudes about the work. I feel pretty blessed.

Do you have any advice for parents seeking a tutor? What would you suggest they do?

I think [it’s best] to give a tutor all of the information that you have, and to ask for a game plan. It’s nice to have background because otherwise, I have to do that legwork on my own, and since I’m talking with the student directly, there are questions I can’t ask them. So there are certain questions I’d like to have answered before I get there in terms of their academic history, and their academic patterns. On the other end of spectrum, I’ve had parents who will say, “Here’s what my child needs,” and they’ll tell me what to do from there. So having the student’s “medial history,” and only the medical history, not the parent’s diagnosis. That would be ideal.

If you were to be tutored in a new subject, what would you want to learn?

Piano! Definitely piano. I just love piano and wish I could play. It’s such a beautiful-sounding instrument. I remember when I was in elementary school, and everybody in the class got the instrument that they wanted, and I asked the teacher, “Oh wait, is there a piano?” and the teacher said “No.” And that was the beginning and end of my piano career. But I guess it’s never too late!

If you'd like to learn more about Jillian or set up tutoring lessons with her, visit her Book&Table profile page and click the "Request a Lesson" button.