First of all, congratulations! I remember how excited I was when I was hired within my first position at Learning Support Services. You should be very proud of yourself and you should feel very accomplished, because only the best of the best in a certain subject get to help others learn said subject. Though it can be a challenge, it is definitely one of the most rewarding experiences have had.
Let me introduce myself – my name is Lena Peterson and I am a Language Studies (Spanish) major with an Education minor. When I was first hired within Learning Support Services (Winter 2013) I was hired to tutor both the Portuguese class for speakers of romance languages (60A) and the Portuguese class for people whose second language would be Portuguese (1A). I had succeeded greatly when I was in the Portuguese series here at UCSC. Later in the year (Spring 2013) I was hired to tutor Spanish 5 and Spanish 1B and continued tutoring the next class in the Portuguese series (65A). Considering I’m writing this to you in the future, I don’t know which subject you’re going to tutor but I can guarantee you will learn something about yourself as you help others learn. I have some advice for you as a student who is new to Learning Support Services or new to tutoring any of the previous subjects.
Though Spanish and Portuguese are different languages, teaching them is uncannily similar. They are both romance languages and structured very similarly, so I think that the following advice will apply to either one of the previously mentioned languages. The first piece of advice I have for you is to have the students look up new vocabulary words in a physical hard-copy dictionary. In any foreign language there is inevitably going to be new vocabulary words and I have personally witnessed the enhancement in the students’ retention of these vocabulary words when I have them look them up in a dictionary. I know as we are the generation of technology you and your tutees will be tempted to use the internet or Google Translate, but I can promise you neither of these will have the same effect. If you have a dictionary, bring it to your sessions. If your tutees have a dictionary, have them do the same. If they do not, encourage them to purchase one, as it will continue to help them over a long period of time.
Secondly, allow and encourage your tutees to use each other as resources. Though you have studied (and succeeded in) the subject you are tutoring, they are each other’s peers and encouraging their interaction will allow them to keep learning outside of your sessions. During the session, have the tutees respectfully correct each other when a mistake is made. If one tutee is stronger in the subject than another, have the stronger tutee attempt to explain the subject to the weaker tutee. They will learn by teaching and by being taught. Though your presence is important for the session (in case the tutee(s) need a grammar rule, a verb conjugation, a sentence structure, etc. explained) having the tutees interact improves the session.
Lastly, develop more than a tutor/tutee relationship with your tutees – develop a friendship with them (when possible, of course). When you first meet them ask them who they are, what they’re studying, why they’re in the class your tutoring, etc. When you haven’t seen them in a week ask them questions like how their weekend was, if they have any midterms coming up, etc. Asking them questions, admitting when you’re wrong, giving them praise and positive reinforcement when they get something right – all of these things enhance the learning experience for most tutees. It shows them that you care about their well-being and it shows them that even though you are in a leadership position, you are also a student and a human being that can empathize with them on both of these levels. I wish you all the best in your tutoring, and I’m sure you will do amazingly. Enjoy yourself, and have fun with it!