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MSI AMS bioe 20a: ryan hoffman

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MSI AMS bioe 20a: ryan hoffman

Dear Future BIOL 20A MSIer,

I want to start off by say congratulations. You just landed yourself the best on-campus student job you could ever hope for. I’m not saying this because the pay is incredible or because you have a set schedule (although those things are true), I am saying you have the best student job on-campus because what you will be doing will actually make a huge impact for the students. Not only do you truly help students achieve goals they are struggling towards, but you get paid for it too. How great is that! However, this job is not something that you can slack off in. You have an incredible responsibility to your students. They rely on you to give them the help they need, wheatear they are able to articulate it or not. In many cases the students who are struggling the most are the ones who ask for the least amount of help, and it is your job, your responsibility, to incorporate these students into an active learning environment. Many of the students you will be working with are underclassmen who have never taken a college level biology course before. Be mindful of this. Be mindful that the lecture hall and professor may intimidate them, that they may have little or no foundational biology or chemistry knowledge, and that their experience in this course could unwarrantedly shun them from the major and career they hope to achieve. Although these are some heavy thoughts to keep in mind, it is important to maintain a safe and friendly learning environment as well. Students need to know that at least someone cares about their progress. For some of your students, you are their only approachable source of help, so be there for them. All anyone can ask of you is that you try your hardest. Don’t expect to be a perfect tutor your first quarter; you will learn a lot with experience. But never stop caring for your students or trying your hardest.

As far as specific advice for tutoring Bio 20A, it is important to always stay conscious of the fact that this is at least the first college level molecular biology course these students have taken (some students haven’t even really been exposed to molecular biology in high school). This means that you really need to approach the course from the basics. Assume that your students have no context for the material, unless otherwise told. The general context you think about biology in is not yet how these students think of biology. This means that you are not just teaching your students the material, but you are also teaching them how to think and talk like a biologist. Your job is to transition students into loving the field of biology and that starts with getting them to stop thinking about biology in the cartoony pictures and concepts and to start thinking about biology in the context of Brownian motion, genetic coding, and chemical interactions.

This job is fun. And you do really make a difference for your students. They really appreciate the time and effort you put into facilitating their learning, so don’t let them down. The worst feeling you can have as a tutor is seeing your students have to retake the course. So try your hardest, be friendly and helpful, and not only present the material, but try to facilitate the students to start thinking like biologists.

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