My name is Hannah and I am currently the CHEM 109 tutor. This is a fun class to tutor, but it comes with some issues, as does any tutoring position. It’s fun because if you like organic chemistry like me (which I assume you do since you’re tutoring this class) you get to help fellow students solve the many puzzles of O chem! It’s challenging because not all students are like us—many students are terrified of O chem and are mainly taking this class because it is a medical school or other health field requirement.
My first piece of advice is that this is the type of class where you’ll want to reserve study rooms in McHenry or S&E Library, because it may require a lot of chalkboard or whiteboard use! It’s silly to just sit around talking about mechanisms and reactions since on an exam the students will be expected to draw these things out. Don’t forget—having them practice reactions on the chalkboard is just as beneficial as it is for them to see you write things out on a chalkboard, so give everyone a turn if they want it!
Here are some attributes I found generally useful going in to any kind of first tutoring session. You have to be friendly—arrive with a smile, introduce yourself, ask what classes your students are taking, ask if they’ve ever been to tutoring before and what brings them to your session. Start building up a rapport with students when you first meet them. Try to form some connection, and it will make them feel more comfortable around you. Confidence is also essential. Arrive well prepared to talk about topics you think will be important for the first session. (Hint: a review of acids and bases is the most important material for the first few weeks of CHEM 109). If you aren’t confident you might come off as nervous and then your students won’t be confident in you either.
There are a few difficulties I’ve run into this quarter in this position. The biggest issue has been balancing group dynamics. Everyone has different learning styles and different levels of confidence. Some students will dominate the discussion, attempting every question you throw at them, while others won’t say a word the entire time. Since there is a lot of material in CHEM 109 I usually make an ‘agenda’ at the beginning of the session of what everyone wants to cover. Don’t let the chatterboxes choose everything. Specifically address the quiet ones and ask what they would like to go over. They might still say they have no questions but at least you tried!
Another important thing to keep in mind is making sure students understand what was just discussed. Asking questions like “does that make sense?” “do you want me to repeat that?” “do you want to hear that a different way?” or “so can you guys explain to me what I just explained to you in your own words?” are all good follow-up questions to ask to make sure the students understand what’s going on.
The most helpful “interactive learning strategy” I’ve used for this class is asking a more quiet student to draw a reaction or concept out on the chalkboard while having all of the more talkative students direct him or her.
Overall I have found that tutoring is a great experience for both the tutor and the tutee. It has improved my confidence and deepened my understanding in every subject I have tutored. I find it to be most rewarding when students leave the session looking relieved and relaxed and express to me how much help the session was. I hope that you enjoy your time as the CHEM 109 tutor! Good luck!