I’ve been in a few situations in the past week which have got me thinking that people have preconceived (and inaccurate!) ideas of what happens during a tutoring session. I want to offer some insights into what I do as a tutor.
My sessions are, as a rule, student-led. As a tutor, I am here to meet my students’ needs, and I want their needs to guide our sessions. That means I’m not following a script or a checklist. I’m listening to my students, hearing their concerns, their confusions. I’m finding them on the map of learning and meeting them there.
A tutoring strength of mine is flexibility. Because I don’t have preconceived notions of what any given tutoring session should look or feel like, I feel very free to make each session unique. That’s not to say that I feel compelled to reinvent the wheel, but I think there is enormous power in the collaboration between tutor and student.
Allow me to be give you some concrete examples of what can happen in my tutoring sessions.
* We can start from “I’m totally lost in this class.” It’s not uncommon for students to tell me they are lost and frustrated with a class. I have such love and admiration for their willingness to tell me how they are feeling. That takes courage. When a student is lost, we start a dialogue so I can find a starting point for our lessons. From there, I can create entire customized lessons to help my student build a base of knowledge. Generally, I think that simple is better in these situations. Yes, science is large and complex, and I don’t mean to diminish that truth. But we learn new ideas in bite-sized chunks, and I think it’s better for my student to walk away from a tutoring session with one new idea that they understand rather than five ideas that leave them confused and frustrated.
* Lessons can be improvised from homework, practice problems, or class notes. Much of what I do is teaching mini-lessons that are centered around exam preparation. Feedback from students on these tutoring sessions has been really positive, so I’m happy to keep going. My students crave more than the right answers. They genuinely want to understand the how and why of their subjects. I strive to create interactive sessions so that my students are actively engaged as we work through the material. Many students want to participate, and I’m happy to co-create our learning environment with them.
* Yes, sometimes we work through homework assignments together. We do homework together. Homework is the bread and butter of learning. Again, my students are seeking an understanding, not just the right answers. When we work through the homework, we’re having a conversation. And if a mini-lesson is needed, then that’s what we do together.
* I share resources, advice, and exam strategies. I’m aware that many students feel the pressure to get it all done, so time is of the essence. My partner, Tutor Paul, has said that his students work with him because he’s able to save them so much study time in their upper-level engineering classes.
Paul and I function as learning resources to help students with their academic goals. As such, we share the knowledge and wisdom we’ve accumulated over many years of being students ourselves and the years we’ve spent tutoring. We are here to help!
I may write a post in the future about some of the resources and advice we offer. That’s such a big topic that it deserves its own post.
And now it’s your turn: have you ever worked with a tutor? What was your experience like? Would you work with a tutor again?
(And if you have any questions for me about my tutoring, feel free to ask them below in the comments! Happy learning.)