Hello everyone! Thanks for stopping by today!
For this post I wanted to speak on my philosophy as a tutor. It’s no secret that I don’t agree with several things about our current education system such as the lack of support for teachers, the lack of understanding for children, and the rigid testing structure that leads to anxiety and depression in students. But I wanted to touch on what I DO like, and do myself, rather than the things I don’t.
The Student-Tutor Relationship
There are several schools of thought that believe that the student and teacher should have a more formal relationship with an obvious emphasis on power and stance from the teacher and acceptance of learning from the student. This school of thought extends to tutoring to involve a formal connection between the tutor and the student, albeit slightly more relaxed than teacher and student.
This more formal/traditional educational school of thought for tutoring is known as Directive Tutoring wherein the tutor does most of the talking and directs the student in the direction the tutor believes the student needs to go. The focus is more on the relationship and trust between the student and tutor rather than on the student.
A second theory and model for tutoring is known as Minimalist tutoring wherein the tutor lets the student take the lead. The relationship can be, and in my experience as a peer tutor at my college usually is, less formal and closer to peers with one being more knowledgeable than the other. The focus is on the individual and while the tutor may direct the student when they absolutely need it, the student is the one who thinks of what they need support with in their area of study (in this case writing).
There are other theories but to me these are the two most opposite to one another and the ones I have experienced and struggled with the most.
Which Way Do I Lean?
As someone who has tutored students of all ages, from pre-k to college level and even those that were much older than me (non-traditional college students), I have found that I lean more towards the Minimalist Tutoring style.
To me, it is most important to build a student’s confidence in themselves and work on educational material from there. A student who is unsure of themselves will only look to you for guidance and will not have taken anything from the session to use on their own. This sets them up to seek validation in the opinions of those they deem more knowledgeable than them and robs them of the ability to learn the skills for themselves and use the tools that were given to them by their educators.
Along with the Minimalist tutoring style, I am also more laid back in personality and talk to students on their level. I am playful, I make jokes, and my tutoring sessions often erupt in laughter and smiles.
The difference between my classroom and another can be stark. Whereas the usual classroom is quiet, focused, and (hopefully) with students all in their desks focusing intently on their work, mine is full of side conversation, doodles on the board, and students walking around the room, laying on the floor, or shifting around in their chairs. When you look closer, however, you will notice that every one of my students are working and understanding the material perfectly. They finish their work, they ask questions, and they take from the experience that learning is fun and they look forward to returning. To me, if a student is happy and relaxed and there is an air of open communication between them and me, I can more easily direct their attention back to their work by simply reminding them it exists.
The Rafiki Method – Look Beyond What You See!
I have, in the past, affectionately dubbed my tutoring style as the Rafiki method. I employ a mixture of creative metaphors and the Socratic method of questioning to help students understand the material from a completely different angle than they had before. I often use pop culture references in my tutoring to help the student come out of the shell of worry that often surrounds them when they don’t understand a problem or subject, and when they answer my questions, I point out that they are answering their own.
An example of this was once in college when a student had a paper to write. The subject of the paper was cybersecurity and they were to write the ways they would strengthen our nations cybersecurity if they were in charge of the programs. This student had completely locked up and was at a complete loss. I asked them if they had ever seen Ice Age. They looked confused but said yes.
“Remember the scene with the Dodos?”
“Remember how they were protecting the watermelon? They broke out in chicken karate styles and fought to their best ability to protect that one single melon?”
*laughing at this point* “Yes, I remember.”
“Pretend this watermelon has been left in your care and it’s not just any watermelon. This watermelon can make people immortal and you have a file on your computer that has the blueprints to grow it. Hackers are trying to access the watermelon! Quick! Protect your watermelon!! What do you do!?”
“Well first I would -”
“Write it down!”
“Write it down!”
They began writing down what they were telling me and when they were done I simply sat back with a huge grin on my face. The student looked at me confused until I said, “Congratulations, you just wrote the basic ideas for your paper.”
To me, the basis of tutoring is building a students confidence, getting them out of their own head, and helping them to relax enough to learn the material.
While these methods and ideas work best for me and my personality, that doesn’t mean a Minimalist and goofy tutoring approach is the catch-all. In fact, I strongly believe that the best tutoring method for an individual tutor to employ depends HEAVILY on their personality. But I will always argue that kids should have a little more creative freedom in the classroom and that the focus should be on building their confidence and making them feel happy and secure, the education comes much easier after that step is achieved.
What are your thoughts? How do you best tutor or what was your best experience with a tutor? What method do you lean more towards/do you learn best with? Comment below and don’t forget to like and subscribe!
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