Over the course of the last semester I have embarked on personally tutoring Mathematics. Both to get a good feeling about myself improving general mathematical literacy and to earn a little money to support my student’s life. I set up a separate e-mail account, posted some free online advertisements and there I went.
Perhaps I just got lucky, but I was a bit surprised by just how many people actually responded. At the time, I thought no one would want to be tutored by a student. Boy, was I wrong.
And so today, I have decided to sum up some of my observations, impressions and experiences with personal tutoring.
I got to see the city!
Okay, this might sound a bit off topic, but it really is the first big thing that comes to my mind. Since I live in the student dorms, I usually prefer to travel to the people I am to tutor – most of my lessons took place at their home or in a cafe in fact. Because of this, I have traveled to some rather distant parts of the city. I got away from my daily routine. And in addition to the fact that Prague is a beautiful city, I have spent quite a lot of time in public transport – and although I often complain about it, most of the time I actually enjoy the time spent alone with just my earplugs and music or a book. So I count this one as a big plus!
Back to the point, though…
I began with tutoring because I feel it’s a good thing to do. Sharing knowledge is mandatory for our kind to survive. I believe we should do everything we can to improve the level of education where necessary. Because our future lies in literacy. This is the attitude I encourage, but let’s face it. I too have been through some days when I just waited for the lesson to end and thought “If I wasn’t getting paid for this I wouldn’t be here.” And, unsurprisingly, the results were always better with the former approach.
Moral story? One should probably not tutor just to get paid. (I guess this one applies to regular teachers as well, doesn’t it?)
Enthusiasm vs. disinterest
As for the people I’ve met, they differ a lot. Same goes for the people’s attitudes. I have met a few guys with whom I’ve managed to turn the lesson into a nice social activity. We’ve joked, talked about our weeks, complained about exams at our respective schools, but still kept to the point of the meeting. And I liked that – it is so much easier to teach in a comfortable atmosphere! Add a bit enthusiasm and interest and you’ve got yourself a perfect pupil.
Oh, the enthusiasm! That is a very important ingredient. I’ve had several lessons arranged – for whatever reason – by parents, and the pupil’s disinterest was so immense! And annoying. To clarify, we’re not talking about little kids here, but rather 16+ years old high school students. Unable to retain attention for longer than two minutes straight. It’s obviously very difficult if not borderline impossible to actually teach such people anything. Here, I’d like to pay my respects to all the teachers who work with youngsters and haven’t yet gone mad!
Yeah, see, I can’t make it today…
The obvious disinterest was only the second most annoying thing I’ve stumbled upon though. There’s something worse. There are those who can’t make it today. I mean, it is natural that you are unable to make it to a scheduled meeting once or twice, but come on. If we make a deal that I will come over every Thursday and we eventually meet about once or twice a month – okay, I could live with that. But for God’s sake, don’t cancel the appointments just minutes before my arrival! The tutors also have their plans and they often adjust them to your needs. And there’s nothing worse than an SMS saying “Sorry, I can’t make it today.” when I’m already on my way to your place. If you don’t want more lessons with the tutor, just tell him, you will save him a lot of trouble.
Teacher’s authority and questions!
It is also worth noting that on several occasions I have witnessed the topic being explained incorrectly to the students at school. I’ve had enough confidence to be sure about that, and in these specific cases I was glad that the teachers weren’t perceived as an authority and my comments on the mistakes were noted. On one occasion, after my student asked his teacher about it, he admitted his error and sent me regards. That is so much more cool than the authoritative “I-am-never-mistaken” attitude I’ve seen in today’s teachers so often!
Questions! Oh yes, questions. They are important. A little tip for you, should you ever get tutored in any subject: Keep asking questions. Because if you don’t, I automatically assume you understand the subject and I’m the one who starts asking. And if awkward silence is what follows my question, you know you should have asked first. Seriously, don’t be scared of your tutors. We don’t bite. On the contrary, we are glad to see interest from your side! To see we are not wasting our time with you.
So that’s about everything that came to my mind. In general, I consider the experience with tutoring to be positive and I’m sure it’ll turn out to be helpful in my future life as well. Also, I will most probably return to tutoring as the next school term starts. And what about you? Do you have any experience with tutoring or being tutored? Let me know in the comments section below!
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