First and foremost congratulations. This is an amazing opportunity for you to not only gain professional tutoring experience, but to learn more about the subject, other student body, and yourself. Know that you are more of an equal to these students than you may realize, and the more that you make them understand that, the better your attendance will be. The truth is, unless you are an MSI for a professor you have previously taken, there are just as many amazing things for you to learn while in the classroom as well as for the students. Each professor has different aspirations pushing them to teach Sociology 10, and it is vital to hone in on what that is to better understand readings, lecture, and the deeper meaning of the class , according to the professor, for these students to grasp. I am sure, seeing as you are reading this, that you are an outstanding student who takes diligent notes, and obtains great grades; don’t lose that. It may become easy throughout the quarter to feel as if the material is repetitive, and you may feel as if you “already know this stuff.” When that time in the quarter starts to creep in, remember this simple cliché; you don’t know everything. Not to be confused with the fact that you most likely know quite a bit, if not most, of the material. It is just important to realize that there is always something new to take out of every lecture, no matter how repetitive the ideas and notions may feel. It is those new pieces of information that enrich your sessions, because you are not only able to apply your previous knowledge to the material, but you will be able to truly engage the students with material the way their specific professor intended it to be. This brings up another huge aspect of being an MSI instructor.
Sessions can be fun, informative, engaging, and low stress as long as you do a few simple things beforehand. Always prepare at least 2 to 4 options on how to run the session. This really does not take up too much time, and makes the environment structured and productive. There will be days when you have 1 student, and days when you have 10 students begging for deeper explanation on W.E.B. Du Bois’s Color Line theory because their midterm is in less than fifteen hours. Having a rough session plan, or three, can greatly reduce hesitation, and confusion with in the session. Maybe start off by sitting down in your assigned room before the session starts for ten or fifteen minutes. Then think of a few activities/questions for 1-3 students, and then another set of interactive learning strategies set up for the chance that you may get a group bigger than 5. When you are organized and on time, the students take the session much more seriously, and gain respect for you as their tutor. Even when a student asks you a question that you do not know how to answer, do not take that as a bad thing. This just simply reaffirms the notion that you are their equal, which you are, just with a tad more classroom experience with this specific course. Everyone is human, therefore no one knows everything, and that is a good thing.
With Sociology 10, the most important tool that we can give students to take away from this course is how to apply these thoughts to real life. The truth is, as you know, that these issues and problems that they are learning, are still perpetuated today, just in different forms. Racism, slavery, gender discrimination, immigration, colonization, just to name a few, are all continued cycles in society. This is why your job is so vital to the full understanding of this course. The Professor, and TA’s, are all there to dive deep into course material, theories etc., but we as MSI leaders have the fun job. We are given a space to let these students apply all of these topics to today’s issues. We can take these ideas, readings, and lecture slides, and bring them to life! In reality that is where all of these things are happening anyways, in real life. That is why our job is so important. You have the opportunity to open the eyes of someone who may have never known how we have institutionalized racism. This could be mind blowing for some students, and could potentially help them become a more educated and tolerant human being. True, many of these students may be taking it as a GE, but the majority of the students do have some level of compassion, and interest in these issues. As an MSI tutor you allow them a space to express this towards the material. The more excited you are about the subject, the more excited that the students will be about it.
To sum this up, I hope that you take full advantage of everything this position has to offer. You have the opportunity to learn more, meet new and enthusiastic students and staff, and most importantly help students feel comfortable with material that they may have otherwise never understood. Always be approachable, and energetic. Everyone has bad days, but your job for just one hour and 15 minutes every session, is to be on task and to be excited about learning. Students will catch on if you are not, then they will not be, and that defeats the whole purpose of MSI. In addition, know that the Learning Support Service staff is an amazing group of individuals who are always willing to help you. They have helped me feel at home in the ARC Center, and they are all extremely concerned with the success of MSI sessions. So if you feel overwhelmed, lost, or even if you are just happy because a student told you that because of you they got a good grade, do not hesitate to email, call, or go in and see the staff. They are a great back bone to remember that you always have. Other than that, I would say that you are more than ready to conquer your first session as an MSI tutor! So put on a smile, get ready for some interesting lectures, and ignite your flame for education, because once you ignite it it’s hard to extinguish (which is a good thing).
MSI Sociology 10, with Professor Susy Zepeda, Spring 2013.