This post first appeared on Upswing's blog on July 30, 2018.
What is tutoring? This is a question I don’t often think about, but probably should. Maybe it’s because I’ve been a tutor for so long. I started peer tutoring back when I was earning my Bachelor’s degree in 2004! At first, I thought tutoring was something that paid the bills while I was going to school. I quickly learned, however, that tutoring was (and is) so much more for me.
Even though I was earning my degree in English, I wasn’t planning on being a teacher. It wasn’t until I took some time away from tutoring that I realized how much it had become a part of me. I switched gears and got my Master’s in teaching, and two weeks after graduating, I started teaching at a college full time. I loved it. (I still do!)
But there was something missing… I blamed it on teacher burnout, but after about a year, I lessened my teaching load so I could tutor in the evenings… with Upswing!
You might be wondering why I would do that. Aren’t teaching and tutoring the same thing? I want to address some common themes and misconceptions, because they’re not exactly the same.
Tutoring is coaching
I love that Upswing calls their tutors coaches. Think about it for a minute. What does a coach do? Well, a coach mentors and guides and even cheers you on, right? It’s the same with a tutor. Like a soccer coach who can’t play the game for you, tutors can’t write your essay or take your test. It wouldn’t be fair. But we can give guidance, share our experiences, and encourage students not to give up.
I don’t know why, but some students feel like they should seek tutoring only after they run into problems…or the week before finals! Can you imagine getting a soccer coach the day before the championship game? Sure, some people are talented enough to play soccer without having a coach, I suppose. But truly successful players will tell you that they wouldn’t be as good if they hadn’t had some kind coaching from time to time, even from fellow teammates.
As a writing coach, I cannot stress this enough. Of course I am happy to help with editing. But please remember that I’m a coach. (Not an editor.) That means that I can help at every stage of the writing process: from generating ideas to understanding how to research and/or cite sources, to formulating a solid thesis statement and building coherence and unity in paragraphs… and much more!
Tutoring is one-on-one instruction
Don’t get me wrong. I love teaching in front of the classroom, but tutoring is where I see the most lightbulbs go on. Just because students nod their heads in class when the teacher asks them if they understand doesn’t always mean that they do. Am I right? That one-on-one experience with a tutor is sometimes the only place students feel comfortable asking questions, things that they’d never want to ask in front of a whole class!
When I teach, I often try to hold conferences with students, which is an opportunity for them to ask me questions about their projects… one-on-one. These kinds of experiences, however, are limited as an instructor. It’s not easy to set aside an entire week (for example) to meet with students like that, and as much as I beg my students to come to my office hours, they usually don’t. Tutoring reaches those students who would, otherwise, silently drown.
Tutoring is a career, too
Remember how I said I lessened my teaching load to make room for tutoring? Last year, I applied to be the tutor coordinator at my college. Now I tutor in the day and — guess what — I still tutor in the evenings for Upswing.
Am I really that desperate for money? Not really. I just love what I do! Nothing is more rewarding to me than coaching a student from start to finish on a writing project. I’m so glad I decided to be a peer tutor back in 2004. Who knew it would change my entire career path and make me who I am today?
Tutoring ESL, college writing, reading, and English grammar since 2005!