Tutor? I hardly know ‘er!

      2 Comments on Tutor? I hardly know ‘er!

You think you remember experiences from a year ago, then you experience them again all fresh and shiny, and realize you had no bloody idea.

Tutoring at the local community college started today. For those who didn’t read my blog a year ago, here’s a brief recap of how it works:

The Tutoring Center is a big open room, with lots of long cafeteria tables in it. Each table has a little sign on it – Algebra, Trig, Pre-Calculus, Calculus, Physics, Engineers, Chemistry, Accounting, Economics. Students sit at the appropriate table for the subject they are working on. This is kind of nice, because it gives the students a chance to talk with each other about problems or concepts. But when they get stuck, they flip up a red mailbox flag on the sign. That’s the cue for one of the tutors to come scurrying over to help.

The general idea for the tutor is to tease information out of the student, try to lead them to the right ideas, give them just enough help to get them back on track, and then scurry away. There’s a strong emphasis on not doing the work for the student, but to really help them in the learning process. And be quick about it, because there are two other flags up already. Ooops, three.

This makes the experience fairly dynamic for the tutors. For instance, today I bounced from teaching someone how to solve simple algebraic equations, doing a physics (Newtonian motion) word problem, graphing lines, some pre-Calc (calculating average rate of change between points on a curve), explaining that g(x) is really no different a concept than f(x), simple word problems (oh no, one side of the field is bordered by a river!) and doing unitary conversions in Chemistry, etc. I was slammed, for two hours solid. I finally begged a brief break to use the head and realized I had worked past the end of my shift without even taking a moment to breathe. Sheesh!

I’m finding that I really enjoy tutoring at the CC level. Yeah, the students and subject matter aren’t always as advanced as I might like. But, I have yet to meet a single student who wasn’t deeply engaged and eager to learn. It seems like the typical undergrad these days is there because, well… it’s what comes next after high school. And maybe they are there to learn, but they’re just as likely to be there for the parties, the Greek scene, getting drunk, getting laid, getting stoned, football games. Preferably all at the same time. By contrast, the CC students I’ve met are all highly motivated. They are there because they are eager to get into some training program for a new career, or to get out of manual labor into a profession, or as catch-up and prep for an undergrad somewhere. But they are all there to learn, and they are desperate to soak up the information, if someone can simply put the concepts in a form they can digest.

So yeah, I’m tutoring again. Good times. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Tutor? I hardly know ‘er!

  1. thunderslug

    I did that for three years at OSU. We each had a carel with two extra chairs, and we had little signs of what we could teach. The 101-102 tutors were *clearly* there for their work-study.

    But I (like, I imagine, you), loves that lightbulb moment when they *get it.

    It was fun being slammed for four hours…yeah, quite a few were doing business math (useless students), but my proudest moment was when a student turned the corner, saw the cornucopia I taught (almost a math degree, too) and said “you have got to be fucking me” to ask me a question about conformal mapping in imaginary space. Next to us was he remedial tutor. He’s in politics now. Weird.

  2. schmimi

    That sounds like a very cool program… we didn’t have anything like that at my CC (but then, that was a million years ago).

    I have often said that I feel like I got at least as good and probably better education at the CC I attended than at the University that I eventually transferred to. I found that the teachers were there because they wanted to TEACH, and were not just on some tenure track. And it showed.


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