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4 Reasons Tutors Should Use Mindful Pauses

One of the best things a tutor can do for a student is allow them a quiet moment to mull over lessons and figure out problems. It’s not always easy to do: as social creatures, silences can feel uncomfortable and we itch to say something to fill them in. However, silences can be meaningful as a needed chance for students to work through their thoughts.

Being mindful means doing something purposefully and with awareness of yourself and your surroundings. By deliberately injecting pauses into your tutoring, you’ll give yourself the opportunity to focus on the present moment and take stock of the student, the lesson, and yourself.

Here are four reasons to practice mindful silences while tutoring.


1. They give the student time to process and absorb information.
As an adult education program that provides individualized, one-to-one tutoring, we see that each student takes in information differently and at different speeds. It’s important not to move too quickly and leave a student behind. Mindful silences are a great way to break up information output and let the information sink in.

If you’re spending some time explaining a concept or lesson and find yourself doing a lot of talking (which is easy to do with GED® test lessons), be sure to provide deliberate pauses throughout the session. The student is swimming in a pool of information; think of the pauses (which should last for about three to five seconds) as chances for the student to catch their breath before diving back in.


2. They give the student time to formulate an answer.
Tutors are here to help, and they take their responsibility to heart.  Because of this, they can view silences as little distress signals and want to jump in. While that may seem helpful from the tutor’s end, doing so can actually hinder learning.

Be sure to provide your student with time to not only determine the answer, but also to figure out how they want to communicate that answer. Students may need to search their vocabulary and go through all sorts of mental processes before they’re ready to answer, and making a habit of including mindful pauses ensures that there’s built-in time for the student to do that. Adult students may be particularly reticent to speak up too quickly because they may have added insecurities about getting an answer wrong.


3. They give the student time to formulate questions and comments.

Processing information and coming to an answer are important parts of learning, but so are merging that information with what’s already known and having new ideas or questions come from that synthesis. Asking questions is an essential part of learning and mindful silences can give your student space to connect knowledge dots and find questions they have.

When a student does start to ask a question or make a comment, give them time to complete their thought. A student may need help finding a word, which is fine, but be careful not to interrupt or cut-off their process.


4. They give the tutor time to think.
Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from mindful silences. While you provide a pause so the student can take in information, you give yourself the chance to think about your next step or the next part in the lesson, reflect on how the student is doing, and be more mindful in your tutoring. Plus, you’re doing yourself a favor and benefiting the student when you take a moment to collect your thoughts and reflect before answering a question or continuing with a lesson.


Where can mindful silences happen?
There are lots of places where a tutor can regularly practice mindful pauses. Like we mentioned, pauses are crucial during stretches of lecture. It’s also a good idea to insert a pause after asking a question (or reading a question from an assignment), and after being asked a question by a student. You can also encourage your student to take a moment before answering. For more ideas, check out Slowing Down to Learn: Mindful Pauses that Can Help Student Engagement.

Learn more about how Seeds of Literacy helps our students to grow.

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