I just got my first tutoring client in our new town, and it’s going to be a short gig. This kid’s too smart to need me for long. Just needs a little confidence-building and he’ll be off and running.
But just a couple of sessions is enough to remind me of how much I love it.
When you teach, you have to try to gear the material to EVERYONE, an impossible task but what else are you going to do.
When you tutor, you do whatever they need. If you can tell they need everything written down to be able to process the information, then you write it. If you hear one or two recurring pronunciation errors (I tutor languages), you point them out. If they need you to repeat certain things or jump over that one part or remind them of that thing they keep forgetting… you can be whoever and whatever that student needs. Do they need you to walk them through the whole exercise? Do they just need a nudge in the right direction?
I love the fact that everyone learns differently. I love the challenge of figuring out what a student needs and how I might phrase something so that it makes sense to them.
I remember when I was in grade school and a teacher would explain something and a kid would ask a question, and I could always tell that there was a crossed wire between what the teacher said and what the kid heard. So how did the teacher answer? Most of the time: repeat exactly what they said the first time. I knew, if they just tweaked it, came at the answer from a slightly different angle, this kid would get it.
I love to look at things from all possible angles, walk around some theory or rule or bit of information and investigate it for leaks, holes, or undiscovered treasures. I love to be able to rotate the invisible gem and make it magically appear for someone who wants to see it. I love to try to connect that particular piece of the world to all the others, try to fit together some big picture so we might Get It.
The best and worst case scenario in tutoring, I find, is when the student is really inspired by the subject. Best case, because it is a total joy to watch them drink in the material, so satisfying to realize that they are listening to things I point out and that they put into practice almost everything we cover, so validating that someone else likes to study the subject I’ve devoted so much of my life to.
Worst case scenario because, like my current student, they don’t really need me. The usual case is the concerned parents see a test score that went amiss for whatever reason and they panic a bit and want to make sure things aren’t heading in the wrong direction. I provide a couple of sessions worth of support, a few study hints, some guidance to additional resources, and these kids will be able to fly solo. They want to. Like I told the parents the other night when they asked for my assessment of their child’s abilities, I don’t want to talk myself out of a job, but honestly, as long as he keeps up with the school work, he’ll do really well.
I’ll just sit here and hope that a few more come along for me soon.