I was always that nerdy kid in high school, with the pulled back ponytail, and the ultra-thick glasses. I was always someone who peers felt free to ask for help along the way. I was cool with that; it was my identity. After high school, I decided to cash in on my tutoring experience. I had no idea how little I knew. Four years after I began tutoring, I want to help aspiring tutors gain the knowledge I picked up along the way.
I was a very sheltered teenager. I was quiet, shy, and as I mentioned, nerdy. Guess what the first thing I learned through tutoring was? Yep, how to communicate with people! Although I had never talked to boys, my first three or four clients were teenage boys. I learned that they aren’t really the stereotypical jerk that people want to label them as. I tutored for several Hispanic students, and learned so much about the culture ( and yes, a little bit of Spanish,) I learned that the girls I labelled as sluts or whores in high school were often more insecure than I was! I learned how to communicate with special needs students. I learned that no two people are alike or need the same thing in a tutor. Which brings me to my next topic.
When I first began tutoring, I was very guilty of spoon feeding content to people. That’s what I had always done in high school, and my friends seemed to like it. However, when I began my first real job as a tutor, I realized that most individuals seeking tutors did not WANT to be spoon-fed. Some just needed me to verbalize the problem for them. Some needed a visual. Some needed just to learn how to write down their thought processes so that they could get full credit in Math. I was a much better tutor when I realized that no two students were alike and that they all learned differently. What a refreshing challenge it is to identify and address every learning style that comes to my desk.
This came with lots of time and experience, but was it ever worth the wait! I learned so much about being professional through the time I spent tutoring. I learned not to initiate jokes with the clients, to try not to tutor friends, and to never ask about grades or other tutors. These are the basic fundamentals of a good peer tutor. But I was young and learned from experience.
Acronyms and analogies
HOMES for the Great Lakes… FOIL to multiply binomials… We all have little acronyms that we use in school. As a tutor, I learned many of these by heart. I learned to sing the formula for quadratic equations to the tune of pop goes the weasel. I told one teenage boy that solving for x was like breaking up with a girl… You want to get “X” by herself.
But above all, I learned true trust
In order to be a good tutor, I had to learn how to respect the pure trust that my clients put in me. I had to spend long hours researching the math and science topics that I was uncomfortable with. I had to treat the clients I privately tutored with utmost respect. If I was not sure about the answer, I had to find out the correct one, via the internet or other tutors. I had to admit that I was not perfect. I had to accept the responsibility that the person sitting beside me at that desk or table had placed 100% of their trust in me, and I had to show myself worthy of it.
I hope if you are considering a job in tutoring, that you take my lessons into the field with you. Go out there with this knowledge, make your own mistakes and learn the hard way, and be a truly great tutor.