As i sit down to write this blog I have to go back and remember all my tutoring appointments from the last semester. The appointments that were good, great, no so great and the ones that never happened because one of us missed it…accidentally of course! Anyway, I remember my favorite appointments were with student who were well prepared and were genuinely confused about something. They had used a tutor as a last resort and only if they couldn’t figure it out on their own. My worst appointments were with those clients that were impatient and arrogant, as if I was their servant as a tutor. Other appointments that were right in the middle were those that weren’t as prepared as they probably would have liked but acknowledged it and were ready to achieve the goals that were set during the appointment. Those were really nice because they didn’t make me feel guilty for suggesting that they read the book!
I’m happy that we discussed the concepts of changing the language we use and being assertive, especially the first! I honestly don’t have a problem with being assertive, in fact, I think at times, I can be TOO assertive in general. It definately reflects in my tutoring sessions because sometimes I feel that I ask my questions too boldly or don’t give my clients enough time to answer or to think. After those questions that were hung I could simply look up and find a better way to pose my question, in a non offensive way.
I had some really awesome experiences tutoring this past semester. I really feel like I was able to help students with their studies and gave them the confidence to succeed on tests and quizzes and study habits. I had a frequent client that gave me good feedback on how I was helping him. He made appointments before all tests and before his exams. I think that I really did help him which makes me feel great! Most people think tutroing isn’t hard, but it is because it has to do a lot with personality clicking. In order for your advice as a tutor to impact the client, your personalities have to understood by each other or else the client will just sit there adn nod their head while the tutor struggles to explain the subject matter. During a few sessions, I felt like I was not getting across my point to the client. That makes the session frustrating because because the tutor knows when the client isn’t understanding what in the world your saying. i only had one bad experience during a tutor session. It started off badly because I hadn’t checked my schedule past 1oclock that day so i thought I was off for the night, but at 8:05 I received a phone call notifying me that I had an appointment. I was so embarrassed because i would never not show up for anything so when I got there 15 minutes late, my client was kind of ticked at me..oopppss…. So I finally got situated, and asked the client what we would be working on that night. he explained to me that he had a lab report due the next day and had a few questions about his paper. So he opened his lab top and began asking me editing type questions. he was a little rude and chauvinistic in his words but I blew it off thinking it was just an arrogant type of personality.. whatever haha. I gave him editing advice and then he wanted me to start looking things up for him online and actually do his project for him. i explained to him that it was not my job to do that for him and that it was a waste of our tutoring time for me to Google search the entire time. I didn’t think think this was unreasonable but apparently he did because he complained about me. i guess he was just anxious and on a time crunch with his lab report to get it done because it was due the next day and he still had a lot of work to do on it, therefore he wanted me to the things he was having a hard time doing. I guess i would consider this experience an ugly one. All in all I love tutoring and ca not wait for next semester. 🙂
I’ve seen a good variety of students come for tutoring. Things that definately make a tutoring session good are the student AND the tutor being prepared. I had one session where I basically sat back as the student would tell me everything she knew about a topic. I didn’t even get a chance to write anything down on the form because she said so much, so fast. We had a really good biology conversation (nerd alert) because she knew the material so well and I could tie all of that in and help her connect all these different topics. It was good to hear her say that she felt much more confident for the test and we went over some test taking strategies since it was the first test. The student was thinking critically and organizing the material in her head and I just provided positive reinforcement. Other tutor sessions aren’t so easy when one person is not prepared. Sometimes you just have to say to them that they need to read the material before there can be any kind of discussion about it. When there’s that silence after you ask a question and you can tell they have no idea what you’re talking about all you can do is say ok, let’s look in the text where they talk about that and then after reading it we can discuss it and make sure we understand it. Sometimes it helps when they read it aloud and then I ask questions because right there they have practiced looking something up, reading about it, and then trying to understand it. What made me nervous the first couple times I tutored was what I would do if they asked me a question and I had no idea what they were talking about. I realized though that it happens and it’s actually a good learning opportunity for the student if handled correctly. I always bring other biology textbooks so we can look things up together. That’s really important in studying because you can stare at the text forever and not get it, but sometimes a different approach or another source will lead you to that ‘ah hah’ moment. I also ask the student before the session what they want to go over more specifically so I can make sure I am up to speed on those topics. Also I make sure we’ve talked about their learning style so the session is effective and geared towards how they learn. Some of the things I do now when tutoring are using other sources (internet, textbooks) to look up more information on topics we are discussing to show them how important that is when studying. Also I have them explain to me the concepts and think about why you would do some bio. technique or how does that topic relate to (x) etc. I haven’t had any ugly tutoring sessions but some definately had more uneasy moments than others. I’ve learned a lot from the ‘tougher’ sessions and will be that much more prepared next year.
Over the last semester of tutoring, I have found myself in two of these categories: the good and the bad. Although a majority of the tutoring sessions that I have fall into the “good” category, there were a few sessions that crossed into the bad. There were a few reasons that these few crossed into the bad. First and foremost, it was the client that was completely unprepared and unorganized. When an unprepared and unorganized client came for a session, I would spend the majority of the hour trying to narrow down the topics into categories that were of manageable size. This was a problem because the client would get a lot less out of the session than usual because they failed to prepare. The client would in turn associate the lack of help and understanding with the tutor. I would consider this “bad.” Another reason that a tutoring session could turn for the worse has to do with my organization. On one or two occasions, I have found myself leading a client onto a tangent that more likely than not would not help them in the long run. It is important that, as a tutor, you stay on the path that you lay out at the beginning of the session lest you move into the “bad” realm.
The Good – It’s always really good to feel that the time we’ve been putting in has paid off, when a client finally “gets it” and is really appreciative of the help. This is especially true because of the drama we’ve had this semester from a particular class (see “The Bad”) some of the people I’ve seen just needed a little bit of extra guidance and *poof* it all made sense.
The Bad – Without blaming any one particular class…even though I should. There have been some tutoring sessions this semester where I have had to literally teach the course material, and this was not the students’ faults. While there wasn’t anything particularly hard about showing someone the correct formulas to use and explaining the concepts, it was frustrating to not be able to tell the student to go and ask the prof questions. It was all just a really sad situation.
The Ugly – There was one particular client this semester who came in the day before a test and wanted me to teach him all the course material. That was SO not going to happen, but I did point out the main concepts that would probably be on the test. But wait, it gets better! After pulling out the syllabus and looking at a few things, I asked him where this one particular book (which I knew his class was using) was, and he told me that wasn’t a book that was required for the class. Then he had the gall to ask me if I was sure what I was talking about…seriously. When his hour was up he asked if I could help him longer, but by that time I was so irritated I just handed him the paper and left.
My greatest frustration with clients is that some of them come in completely unprepared and expect to learn the entire course in an hour appointment. While it’s frustrating for me to have to answer the demands of such clients, at the same time, I don’t want to write them off as lazy or unmotivated or slacking or anything negative, because part of me believes that maybe the client just can’t follow the teacher, or has trouble learning by himself or herself. So I’m not completely sure how to deal with this situation, because as it is, it’s stressful being the tutor and being depended on for all the right answers, and its doubly stressful trying to condense course-long material into an hour. At the same time, I’m not willing to give up completely on those clients, just in case they’re not actually lazy but just have trouble learning. I’m still working on developing an approach to this issue; unfortunately, it seems like I have a disproportionate number of these clients.
The Good: Some of the things that make a tutoring session really good are when the students are actively participating and appear to be really dedicated to the session. Another indicator of a good session is when after wrestling with a concept or theme, a light bulb goes on in their head, as they finally come grasp its understanding. However, the thing that makes a tutoring session the most successful is when the student comes in prepared, both with reading the material and knowing what exactly they need help with (however, I understand that this is not always possible).
The Bad/Ugly: One of the worst things that I had to experience was when a student would continue to check her cell phone throughout the session and even at one time answer it. Another “Bad/Ugly” is when it is apparent that the student wants you to do all of the work for them, and essentially write their paper or provide them with a summary of the material. However, the worst is when the student is completely unprepared and has not been reading the assigned material for the class. This makes the session almost impossible, as I cannot serve as their own personal textbook.