This letter is to help prepare you for this position that will assume for this quarter.
In my personal experience, I found that being a positive and encouraging leader promoted a better environment for the students. The students were more engaged and more willing to participate during the sessions. You want the students’ learning environment to be as positive and as comfortable as possible for their benefit; the more comfortable the students feel, the more they are willing to seek help.
Comfort starts with you. Going hand in hand with providing the best environment for your students, you must be welcoming and friendly. A way to accomplish this is to know your students’ names. This promotes a personal relationship, allowing them to see you as an equal instead of a figure of authority. This mindset from the students makes it easier for them to be able to ask you questions and help on their problems if they do not feel intimidated by you. Then, the energy spent on being intimidated by you can be better spent on focusing on the material and allowing you to help them.
Make an effort to keep them involved. The strategy that I have found most effective in my experience is reciprocal teaching. When you are teaching the students, you want to provide them with guidance and strategy. You do not want to give them the answers. This mentality is the foundation for reciprocal teaching; it is ideal for the student to be able to teach you or tell you the steps because it promotes their understanding. Instead of going through the problem yourself, call on students and ask for an approach or the next step to the problem. For example, if the problem asks to find the cross product of two vectors, ask them how to set up the problem and ask for the succeeding steps. With this strategy you are able to evaluate how much they understand from lecture, homework and MSI sessions, as well as evaluate what you can do to improve their understanding. You can watch them go through the motions of the problem, or have them guide you through it, and gauge where exactly they struggle the most. Having the idea of where their difficulties lie allows you to provide clarity when appropriate and optimizes their understanding for the material.
Keep in mind that it will not always be easy. I have encountered some challenges, and you may as well. For example, I found that I was not always able to answer the questions posed during my sessions. While it may be difficult to admit that you cannot answer it, remember that you do not necessarily have to know everything. It is okay to stop, take a step back, and tell the students that you can e-mail them the proper approach when you figure it out. Instead of wasting time during session trying to solve a difficult problem, just move on and come back to it when you can. It is best to make sure that the group as a whole can move forward, but that might be difficult when teaching a group larger than the usual group size. Do not be surprised at the sudden increase of people that show up to sessions shortly before a midterm or final, but be cautious that the larger group may be more difficult to assess for the students’ understanding. Not every student will comprehend the material at the same pace nor will every student inform you if they are confused, so you would have to make the judgment call to move onto a different topic. Before moving on, you should make an announcement for any students who are still confused to wait until the end of the session for you to help them further. Another way to battle larger groups is through the method of clustering. Simply divide the students into groups of three or four, however many you feel would be effective, and require them to teach other. You can then have more power to facilitate in smaller numbers.
Remember to relax and enjoy what you are doing. Take pride in helping others, and believe that you will do an exceptional job. Best of luck, April Le