For about a year I worked with high school students as a part time tutor. I tutored in Math, Physics, and English, but for the most part students came in for help with math. It was very rewarding and overall a good learning experience. Here’s what I learned:
1.) How to motivate people
The number one problem I found in high school students was their lack of motivation. This was especially apparent in the math classes. See, when something is difficult to do or difficult to understand, motivation goes down. You start to think, why bother trying if I can’t do it anyway? My job as a tutor had to do with more than just showing people how to solve for unknown variables or how to solve a quadratic function. I had to reassure students that it’s okay to try difficult problems and not always succeed. It’s okay to struggle and ask for help. Failing and trying again and again is an important step in learning. Some students would confide in me and admit that they didn’t understand the teacher. I encouraged them to ask teachers more questions, and if not that, look for outside resources for help. Not every teacher will be a good one, but that doesn’t make it impossible to learn the material. This can translate to a situation beyond school. Sometimes people will feel small because they don’t understand something. It’s important to be compassionate and understanding and help people believe in themselves by motivating them with kind, assuring words.
I’ve always been a patient person, but after this tutoring job it’s become apparent to me just how important patience can be. No person learns in the same way. Some students catch on to things quickly while others need more time. There’s nothing wrong with needing more time, but sometimes that would result in the same concept having to be explained multiple times in different ways. Good communication skills require that you can explain the same thing to different people. If someone doesn’t understand what you’re saying, you need to be patient, restate it in a different way, and make sure your audience understands you. I wanted the students to understand the material. I remained patient with them to ensure they didn’t feel bad for not understanding and explained it to them until they did.
Every now and then teachers would introduce me to students failing their classes with hopes that I could change that. When we set-up tutoring meetups, it was imperative for me to ask how the student was feeling. Sometimes the teachers didn’t understand that people don’t always fail classes because they don’t understand the material. Sometimes the cause is due to something happening in a person’s life. Sometimes you just don’t feel like yourself, or you feel lost and alone. When you talk with someone, you never know what personal matters they’re dealing with. As a tutor, it’s important to not make assumptions that a student doesn’t understand. Sometimes the root cause of failing is due to unaddressed feelings. It’s good to ask and express your concern. If you’re not feeling well emotionally, mentally, or physically, it’s hard to do well in school. Sometimes people feel as though nobody cares. That why it’s important to ask someone how they’re feeling to show that you care.
Being a tutor was one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had. I learned all these things and so much more. Not just things that helped me professionally, but things to help improve myself as a person.