Tutoring this semester has only presented me with two difficult situations (lucky I know). My first difficult situation was with a student who wanted tutoring in his New Testament class. Not a problem – until I realized that he had a completely different professor (he was a Holt student) and was using a completely different book. Western religions, including Christianity, aren’t exactly my forte and I panicked. I called his professor for some help. No response. I walked over to that chapel and was promptly told that no such professor existed. With my resources drained, I could only hope that he was coming in for a paper. So I gathered my strength and prepared for the worse. And the worse happened. The student came in for a test. Not just a test – the most detailed test on Christianity with the most obscure facts ever! He handed me a list of terms – words and people I had never even heard of before – and wanted help understanding a few terms and phrases that he had underlined. I explained to him that I wasn’t able to get in contact with his professor (which by the way does exist) and that I wasn’t sure about the terms, but that I would be more than willing to help him find the answers – in his book and online. So we spent the rest of the hour searching through the index of the book, reading passages that sometimes had nothing to do with the topic, and surfing the internet in hopes that somehow we would be able to get something resembling an answer to the question. I felt horrible. Some kind of tutor I was – babbling “I thinks,” “maybes,” and “I hopes.” People come to tutors because they hope that tutor will be able to speak intelligently on a subject and to gain a greater understanding of the topic they are having trouble with. I failed to do that and was thoroughly disappointed with myself.
But, alas, this story does have a happy ending. I got back my client evaluation a couple weeks later and he, surprisingly, gave me a more or less positive review. There was, of course, a few 1s and 2s, but he stated that I was helpful (helpful! Can you believe it?) and he even said I was organized (this is particularly shocking because I felt sooo disorganized). Perhaps he was just trying to be nice, but I would much rather believe that, despite how horrible of a session it was, there were still some positives. I guess my client wasn’t as disappointed in me as I was in myself because he recently made another appointment with me – for a paper this time (what a relief!). In that appointment, I was at least able to speak and to tutor as if I knew what I was talking about. Yay!
So I guess the moral of this story is even when you have a horrible experience with tutoring, there is always something to be gained. Consider it a lesson on what you can improve on. And hey, sometimes, it’s just a bad day so don’t take it too harshly!