On a Personal Note; Why I Like Tutoring
Updated: Dec 13, 2019
This is a photo of me and a student on one of our first days. We happened to find a book that ended up being her favorite: "Rumple Buttercup; a Story of Bananas, Belonging, and Being Yourself" by Matthew Gray Gubler. Granted, I'm lucky there is even a picture of me tutoring someone, and luckier that it actually captured what ended up being a special day. But in any case, I think most days I tutor are a special day.
What prompted me to post this is that last night I had a student wanting me to stay longer, not a parent. And this isn't the first time that has happened. Students will walk me to the car, ask for 5 minutes longer, ask to play a game with me, etc... And it made me realize that they just like spending time and learning with me, and in the education and tutoring field that's a huge accomplishment!
I got into private tutoring in my first or second year of college when a retail coworker of mine asked if I could help her twin grandsons out in school. One was gifted and the other actually had some exceptional needs, so it was a challenge, but I loved it! From there, I posted an ad on craigslist offering my services, and contrary to popular belief, all of my clients have been real people.
I have had a steady stream of clients since then, for which I am so thankful. I've had preschool age, all the way to college, even some adults learning English. Most of the time, I leave a session smiling. Why? Because my student is smiling!
Tutoring allows me to really connect with a student and see where they might be struggling, and more importantly, where they feel bad about themselves. I love showing students what the reality of the school system is, or how a teacher might be seeing things, since I've been one. I want to give them the tips and tricks to succeeding interpersonally, and the actual skill set they need to do well in school, too. For the most part, it's not an issue of not understanding the material, it's an issue of not knowing how to study or organize one's self. It's also an issue of self-esteem when they start doing poorly, and teachers treat them poorly because of it.
Background-wise, I grew up all over the world. I went to private British school, American boarding school in Austria, and regular ol' public schools here in Miami, and these were not in succession-- it was all jumbled up. My educational experiences have been diverse. On top of that, my learning and homework habits would change. In one school, I did not do my homework at all because I wouldn't get in trouble (no intrinsic motivation). In boarding school, we had study time for over two hours and people checking to make sure we did, and obviously I can't say "I left my homework at home."
My high school experience was completely in a public school, and my habits were all over the place. I was the kind of kid that the teachers would say things to like "We know you're smart, but you still have to do your homework." I got the impression I was lazy. But the reality was that my mom had been diagnosed with stage 4 terminal breast cancer. Eventually it spread to her brain. I would sit in class staring at my phone waiting for a text with surgery results a lot of the time. My afternoons would be spent at the hospital. When I got home, I would often have to help my dad with our goat farm. When I had my own time, I would just distract myself until bedtime. Looking back, I wasn't lazy-- I was struggling internally and had poor coping mechanisms, and teachers who didn't understand.
Now, I use all of my own experiences to guide my own tutoring practice. One good teacher I had had told all of us students that our parents are doing a lot we don't see or are sick, and the best thing we can do for them is to take care of the one thing we can-- school. That we should do our best to get good grades, that we shouldn't have our parents worry about us on top of their load. It was inspiring, and I tell my students that today. But I also show them how.
So I think to answer my own question on why I like tutoring, it's because I get to give students the opportunity to improve in ways they don't even see. I get to look back on my own life and experiences and prepare students for life down the road in a way that's applicable to them right now. In a selfish way, I also get to remind myself of the truth by consistently reaffirming that it's not the child's fault for what hand they've been dealt. I get to be the person for them that not even I had growing up, and that's what the best thing is out of all.