Monday, September 02, 2013

What Scares Me the Most

By Matthew Kunes

What makes new tutors nervous?

A cursory glance over the blog revealed pretty much what I expected to see: tutors are nervous about being wrong; they’re nervous about the technical aspects of writing, and knowing where to put that blasted comma; they’re afraid they won’t be able to help new students; and the like. One was nervous of making a mistake in front of the other tutors.

What makes me the most nervous about being a new tutor?

I am confident in my own abilities in writing, although I am, of course, always trying to improve. Writing, and organizing my writing, has always come naturally to me. I never had to work hard at structure, or grammar, or, heaven forbid, spelling.

I think that, more accurately, the thing which unnerves me the most about being a new tutor is this fear: I will not be able to help the student.

It’s not that I am not good enough. I suppose you can judge that for yourself, but I feel qualified in my skills. The fear is that my knowledge imparted will be lost in translation; that, after all is said and done, the student will not improve when trying to follow my counsel.

I guess that comes down to the difficulty faced by all kinds of educators: how do we teach? I think the general consensus is that we don’t; rather, we spend all our endeavors in being a facilitator, allowing the student to learn for themselves.

Most of that underlies my reasons for relying so much on the Socratic method. I am a guide, pointing in the right direction, but the student must learn to arrive at their destination on their own.

This works a lot better in Math, a subject I have tutored in the past. There, the answer is, hopefully, logical. In fact, one could say that Mathematics is the study of quantitative logic. In the typical tutoring situation there, I would simply ask the student if the solution we were working out thus far looked right, and nudged them in the right direction from there. Most of the time, it was the student that was doing all of the work.

Writing, on the other hand, is different, since there is no right or wrong answer to the question: how do you write a college level paper? Actually, let me rephrase that: there is no one right answer to this question. There are plenty of wrong answers!

In any case, I don’t want to be seen as pretentious or above the student in any way. After all, that is not the nature of the relationship. I do not write the curriculum, but I rather follow it just like the student does. I am more experienced, true, but we should tread with each other as peers, or equals.

I hope the students can see me as just that: an equal.

I hope the student can learn something in my time with them.

Of course, that fear is nothing compared to the fear that I will, somewhere, forget where that blasted comma goes.


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