Talking about our work at the Rollins College Student Resource Center, Florida, USA

Archive for October, 2008

Dealing with difficult situations journal 2

It is important when tutoring that you don’t let your client take advantage of you. It is not fair to you when the client has come in and they are not prepared and they expect you to teach them everything. In those situations it is important to actively listen to the client to understand where they are coming from therefore the client doesn’t think you don’t get what they are going through. It is also important to be firm. We are not there to replace going to class, or replace their professors. In these situations we should tell our clients that they need to go over and review the book or their notes and we will answer any questions they have on the material. We can even go over the material with them so if a question arises we can be there to help them through it.

One experience I had with a client was, she was late, she wasn’t prepared, and she came into the session asking me to teach her the sections. She didn’t really have any specific question she just wanted me to explain everything to her. So I told her we could go over the book together, and then when I was explaining something she had a question on she started nodding off. This completely frustrated me but I regained her attention by saying “does that make sense”

I think an important thing for us to do is deflect negativity. Often times the students will be frustrated with their teacher, or frustrated that they don’t understand a problem. When this happens they may take their frustration out on us. Therefore it is important for us not to bite back at them. We need to stay calm and help them identify what the problem is. Then hopefully they will calm down and we will be able to help them through he problem

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Journal 1 Tutor Cycle

What I have done would do in  perfect world in steps 4-8 in the tutor cycle.

Step 4: identifying the task

Usually when I start a tutoring session I ask my clients what they want to work on today, therefore they have the opportunity to tell me what they are having trouble with in the course. I also try to let them explain to me what they have been doing to try to solve the problem. This is more difficult with clients who come in and want me to explain every detail to them, and don’t just have problems on specific problems.

Step 5: Set and agenda

Usually I let the client decide what they wan to do in the session. Whether it be going over homework problems, a previous test, or reviewing for a upcoming test. Usually when they decide what we are going to work on it is easy to stick to the agenda. It is important that the clients come in with something they want to accomplish therefore we have a goal to work toward.

Step 6: Address the task-follow the agenda

This is usually easy to do. I start by having the client get out everything they will need to work on the task at hand. Usually during a tutoring session my client and I are able to get through all of the questions they have. I also make sure the clients know that when they get stuck they should go back to the section outline and see if any examples in the book can help them solve the problem they are working on.

Step 7&8: Have the client summarize the content and process

Here I have/would have the client think about what we did today, and how this has helped them solve the problems they were having. It is important that they reflect on what they learned and what they did so in the future they will be able to apply both to what they are working on.

During my tutoring sessions it is sometimes difficult for me to stick to the 12-step method of the tutoring cycle. Things I always do is greet my clients, and ask them where they would prefer to sit. I am also really consistent with identifying what the client is doing to approach the problems they are having. Step 6 is also something I do consistently. In math, the two best resources are your book and your teacher, so I think it is important that the client becomes familiar with their book, and sees the ways in which their book can help them solve some of their problems. Usually by looking at examples in the book you can solve homework problems assigned to you by the teacher.

Steps that I am not so good at following are steps 7 and 8. I don’t always have the client summarize what we have gone over in the session. However, I should start doing this because this is a good way to reinforce what the client has been doing for the past hour. Also step 11 is a step I don’t always follow. I don’t always have clients plan ahead, and arrange what they should do next. However this could help the client prepare for what they are going to accomplish away from the tutoring session.


Margaux’s math session: “So, now what do you do?”

That’s one thing I noticed about Margaux as she helped her student with problems from the GMAT prep book. She often started her comments/questions with “So…” “So, what are they asking?” “So we know they’re asking about time…but what about cost?” Or some variations, like, “Can you say really quickly how you might work it out?” (Isn’t that step 8 of the Tutor Cycle?) and responding to the oft-asked questions, “Am I right?” and “Is this right?” with “It could be. We’ll find out.” Getting the student to do most of the thinking, assessing the next steps, seeing if she ‘s right or wrong–making her more of an independent learner.

Margaux’s student client was especially good at thinking out loud as she went through the steps. I commented/complimented her on this, and she said she thought Margaux had helped her develop that in previous sessions. It certainly helps Margaux see what she’s doing, where she’s going in the right and in the wrong directions. We know that many college students who drop out of (i.e. not persist in) science, math and engineering majors complain about professors working at the board, not talking through what they are doing. These think-alouds are good for the tutor and student client alike… and Margaux’s session was a model to follow in this respect, too.

Margaret’s “paper” sessions & forms

I’d seen Margaret’s very thorough peer tutoring notes forms for papers in CMC 100 and 200–with comments on themes in the paper, the complex thesis using them, the hook and conclusion, and formatting details. I was curious to see how she managed the reading, writing and talking in a session, so I observed her on Monday.

I was struck by how Margaret connected both with the client (“Oh yeah, that was a film class we had together”) and with the ideas she saw in the paper (“Dr. TIllman will love that.”) The client asked how to paraphrase, and Margaret showed her how she was doing it in her draft (“I see you’re using a lot of theory” and “You take a quote, introduce it, state it, restate it in your own words”). Lots of give and take, as Margaret made her way through the draft, section by section, reading silently but then commenting on this or that, reading a bit out loud, asking questions to get the client talking.

In our debriefing, Margaret said this client’s paper was not as far along as others she’d seen, so she had to spend more time looking at the themes the client had written in the beginning of the paper–the big picture. And the discussion of what was before and after a quote was to help her, since she had to do the same with the rest of the quotes she had in her outline–to make them her own. She had to spend more time with what the client would do in the 24 hours before the paper was due than she had with other people in the class, tweaking what they had already written.

I said I thought her use of the form was masterful–writing a bit about each little discussion before moving on the the next section. Thanks, Margaret! You certainly earned your $6.79 that hour. 😛

BTW, I gave Margaret the top copy of the sit-in form, which has some suggestions about what to look for, but also has lots of space to write whatever you want. If you observe someone, pls. use this form. It’s in the bottom left of the mail cubbies.

Journals 1 & 2 for new tutors, fall 2008

Click on the journals tab at the top of the blog (below the masthead image) to see the complete journal assignments. I’ll be looking forward to reading yours, just as I hope you find it interesting to read the journals that new tutors last spring wrote. Don’t forget to categorize your journal (general ones in the check-off list in the box below where you compose your post) and write a tag or two or three to describe what you’ve written. Also remember that I’ve attached some documents for reference in an Oct. 20th email to you. Check there, too.

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