Felicidades! As an SPHS tutor you have been hand-picked by the coordinators of the program to help others succeed in this class. This means that you did really well in the class and demonstrated that you have the skills to be a section leader and you should be very proud of that because not many students get this position. You need to keep this in mind as you meet your students, lead you sections and encounter some frustration in the process.
As an SPHS tutor you are very unique. You are the only tutor in the LSS program that leads mandatory sections so a lot of the strategies and lessons you will learn in Education 196, the tutor training class, will not apply to you. This means that you will struggle to complete the assignments and apply what you learn to your sections. However, these will be great opportunities for you to find creative ways to modify what you learn and apply it to your position. At first you will probably be frustrated because you will be the exception to almost everything you are taught as a tutor, but don’t let this frustration stop you from doing your best and enjoying what you do. I found that talking about the assignments with other SPHS tutors before completing them was always helpful. Together you can find ways in which to modify strategies so they cater to the needs of your students. You can also experiment with different strategies and ask your students which ones they find the most useful. And always remember that you can talk to any of the LSS staff about issues you encounter, they are always willing to help.
As you know, the sessions you will lead ask students to prepare by doing additional readings which are discussed during the hour you are together. On top of this you will need to spend some time answering students’ questions and reviewing difficult concepts so managing the time you have will be something you will have to work on. While it is usually recommended that you spend half an hour on the readings and half an hour reviewing realistically this does not work. Sometimes you will spend a lot of time answering students’ specific questions and this will make you rush through the review of the readings. Other times you will find that no one has questions and all you will do is talk about the readings. It will take you some time to learn how to split your time between the two but I have found that coming prepared with some review problems always helps get things started when no one has questions. On the other hand, when you spend most of your time answering their questions I find that leaving at least fifteen minutes to talk about the readings allows you to discuss the overall content of each chapter or story and some of the key themes found in them. I found that going over these gives them a general idea about what they are reading when you don’t have enough time to really discuss everything in depth.
I also recommend you to review the class page and take notes on what they have learned in class during each week of tutoring. This will allow you to come up with some review questions or exercises when no one brings any of their own. For example, when everyone says that they understand what a homónimo is ask them to define it for you and give you examples. Usually this catches some students off guard and it allows both you and them to notice areas where they are still having trouble.
As you interact with a specific group of students every week, be ready to meet some who give you sass. Since these sections are mandatory you will have students who are much more advanced than others and who don’t actually need the extra help. This means that sometimes you will face students who know more than you, and that is fine as long as you remind them that you are a student just like them and that you can all work together to get as much out of these sections as you can. Sometimes this will mean that the more advanced students will look bored or become a little defensive, this is why you should constantly be asking for people’s opinions or suggestions so everyone feels like they are actually participating and not just sitting in passively.
One thing you will encounter very often is students who don’t do the readings. Part of the point of these sessions is to have students practice their conversation skills as they discuss the assigned readings in depth but this becomes very difficult when no one reads or brings any questions. There is only so much you can do when no one reads, but instead of awkwardly sitting in silence you can make students take turns reading a particular story out loud. If at least one of the students reads, have him or her explain what happens in the story to other students and then get them to ask each other questions about it. Sadly this will probably happen often, and even though it is quite frustrating at the beginning try to find creative ways to get them engaged with the readings while they are in section, such as having them brainstorm themes or describe a specific character. However, remind them that they must prepare before they come to tutoring and that not reading or participating negatively affects their grade. And once everyone gets to know each other and you feel comfortable with your students tease them about not reading. Sometimes playful teasing helps break the tension and reminds them that you are a student just like them.
Finally, keep in mind that you can always talk to Professor Pagani about any difficulties you face. She is always available and can give you suggestions on what to cover during your sections as well as how to deal with specific students and their needs. I have used her as a resource a lot this year and I have learned a lot.
I hope this letter helps you prepare for the exiting quarter ahead. Keep in mind that every group is different and that there is a lot to learn from your experience as a tutor. Good luck with your sessions!