Welcome! And congratulations on your new position. Tutoring will be both challenging and rewarding, and you should be excited to make a difference in the academic lives of many fellow students. Whether you’re eager or nervous, I can confidently tell you that tutoring will be well-worth your time, and hearing about students’ successes thanks, in part, to your own effort is an unmatchable feeling.
So what about the tutoring process itself? I’m sure you have a few questions or apprehensions, especially about your first session, or are anxious about the dreaded moment when someone asks a question that you simply don’t know. The thing I found most helpful is being very upfront. I was a subject tutor for Poli 70 (Global Politics), who had taken the class two and a half years before tutoring. Needless to say, I was very far-removed from the course, and simply didn’t know everything. So, on my first session, I made that clear. I told the students that I don’t go to class with them, don’t do their reading, and haven’t looked at the class material for a really long time, but then I assured them that I was there as a supplemental resource, and still had a lot to offer. This immediately instilled the idea that I would offer everything I could, but was not a replacement for class or their TAs, which I feel was a good starting point. With that said, I spent the early sessions not just reviewing concepts and answering the questions in which I could, but also each giving them advice. I advised them on reading techniques (highlighting, annotating), work ethic, and especially writing within the field of politics. Anything I couldn’t offer in the context of the class material, I made up for by giving supplemental advice.
In addition to this “supplemental” side, I did make the most of my preparation time in relation to the class. I highly recommend attending the professor’s office hours a couple of times (or at least emailing them for guidance, especially near midterms, papers, and finals), and making sure you have access to the eCommons page. I constantly checked lecture slides to prepare, and outlined a few points that I wanted to talk about before each session. Also, the professor’s lecture slides were a great point of reference during the sessions themselves. Another tip is to type along with what the students say, then format it and distribute it to them after the sessions. All of the students I tutored were very thankful for organized notes, and seemed to use them consistently in supplement to their class notes. Other than these recommendations, I’d also say I found success in speaking clearly, and keeping vocabulary limited. Politics has an entire, sophisticated vocabulary grounded in its discourse, but it is important to remember your audience-- it was an intro class, so I only spoke at an entry level. Also, rather than spending the majority of the section talking and teaching, I focused (especially later in the quarter, when I got a little better) on fostering and mediating discussion, and letting the students reach ideas by themselves.
Those are the tips and methods that I found most effective, and worked on most throughout the quarter. I didn’t start off as a perfect tutor, and I still am not even close. However, by identifying your goals and critiquing your own performance, progress will come quickly. I hope this helps, and I wish you the best!