Dear Future MSI tutor for Intermediate Macroeconomics 100B,
You were hired for this position because you are qualified. You are a good student, you did well in this course, and have the skills to be an effective communicator and peer educator. Being responsible, organized, and dedicated to this job come without saying. However, from my experience I would emphasize the importance of being sociable, relatable, and flexible. When students come to MSI for the first time, whether it is for the quarter or the first time ever, they don’t know what to expect and often feel shy or uncomfortable. Furthermore I have also noticed that it can be intimidating having a peer student act in a role superiority. Thus, I think the first goal you should attempt to achieve in your sessions is comfort. This, for me, at times entailed making a total fool of myself! I’m not particularly extroverted and so I had to go a little out of my own comfort zone to try and make the students feel at ease. I initiated casual conversations to get to know them better and I practiced learning their names. Also although preparation definitely helps to ensure a smooth session, you can’t 100% predict who will show up or what the students’ needs will be. Thus, I found it really important to be flexible with my own agenda and adaptive to whatever the particular session presented.
As you know, 100B puts extra pressure on its students to pass because it is necessary to continue onward with the major. This means sometimes students just want the answers and/or they might pressure you for “secret” information. A few things about this: #1 you cannot read the professors mind. You will not know exactly what will be on the test or quiz. Don’t beat yourself up about this, all you have to do is show up to your sessions and do the best you can. Which leads me to #2: you are not the professor, so you most likely will not know the answers to every problem you are asked. That is okay. The first time I realized I didn’t know the answer a student asked me, I felt like a failure. It was embarrassing and awkward. Luckily similar situations happened throughout my quarters of tutoring, and so I got much better at handling them. You’ll find what works best for you, but what I ended up doing was usually asking the student additional questions to see if they can lead themselves to a solution and/or admitting to not know and committing to researching an answer, as well as encouraging the student to seek further help on the problem. Humans make mistakes and as tutors we are no exception.
#3 You are a student too. At times I felt so invested in my students’ grades and well-being that I sacrificed some of my own well-being. While in the moment I didn’t think twice, looking back I would advise myself to draw more clear boundaries. You are not responsible for the tutee acing the class. You are extra support, but ultimately they have to cross the finish line on their own.
Also I learned through this tutoring experience that 100B can vary dramatically with different professors. Each has his/her own interpretation of what the most information a 10 week quarter of macro should teach its students. No matter the course outline, I think if you try to break down the concepts into “apples and oranges” (meaning relatable and tangible concepts) then students will get a better grasp for the abstract theories presented in the lecture. Also don’t be afraid to speak up in lecture to clarify what the professor is saying!
The tutoring class that you are required to take will touch on a lot of these fundamentals and provide strategies for being a successful tutor. However, from my experience I found that I learned the most through trial and error. The first quarter I tutored this course I was more nervous, less confident, and spent more time lecturing and less time facilitating peer learning. The second quarter I was more comfortable with the materials and also found a routine of engaging students by having them work in small groups as well as leading parts of the section.
Overall, have fun! For me this job was extremely rewarding and I learned a lot about myself and gained a deeper understanding of macroeconomics!