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Q&A Interview With Tutor & Aspiring Professor Christine

Christine graduated from USC in May of 2018 with a double-major in English and Economics and a minor in French. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in English Literature from Claremont Graduate University.

When did you start with Claremont Tutors? What initially made you interested in tutoring?

I started with Claremont Tutors in the fall of 2019, during my first year of grad school. I wanted to do something where I could work with students because I’m interested in becoming a teacher. Though I’d like to work at a college level, I wanted to get some experience working with students of different ages and levels one-on-one to get a better understanding of how students learn and what techniques do and don’t work.

What ages of students and subjects do you primarily work with?

Initially I was working with mainly high school students, but more recently I’ve started tutoring younger students as well. I do a lot of math, since that’s usually what students need help with, but I try to do as much English and writing help as I can.

How did your experience tutoring differ from your initial expectations (if at all)?

Initially I was nervous that I would be expected to go into sessions knowing everything about the subject that I was tutoring. Especially with math, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to respond right away to my students’ questions, or might get stumped on a difficult problem. Once I started working with students, though, I’ve realized that it can actually be helpful for them to see my thought process, and to see how I approach difficult or confusing problems. I think it helps them understand that they don’t have to know or understand something right away; often their success will come from having the patience to test different methods until a problem becomes clearer.

Have you encountered any difficult situations with students? How did you handle them and what did you learn?

I’ve had a couple of students who weren’t just very interested in school and weren’t really applying themselves. They understood what they were learning in class, but they just weren’t putting the work in, in terms of studying and completing assignments. In those situations, I’ve tried to focus, not necessarily on explaining a certain topic, but on motivating them. I think in those situations it’s important to make sure that the student understands that I’m not just trying to push them to get a better grade; I’m really there to help them grow, and ultimately to achieve their own goals.

How has your attitude towards tutoring or your tutoring technique changed as you’ve worked with different students?

I’ve definitely realized that each student is different, and what they need varies. With some students, we can just focus on homework and going over what they’re learning in class, but with others we might need to work on study skills or I might need to challenge them beyond what they’re learning in school. That goes for learning styles as well; I think every student is a little bit different, and it’s important for me to adjust how I explain ideas to make sure it aligns with how the student thinks. I think you really need to get to know them before you understand what’s going to work for them.

What have been some of your favorite experiences working with students?

In general, I’ve really enjoyed being able to get to know my students beyond just their performance in school. Especially when working with students in-home, where I can interact with them in a more casual environment, meet their families, and even play with their pets, it becomes more than just tutoring. We can talk about what’s going on in school or with their friends, and they can get to know me better as well. It’s also been really nice hearing from my students at the end of this past semester about how they did in school, especially given the circumstances with schools having to transition to virtual instruction. Getting the validation that what I’m doing is really making a difference for them, and that they can see that difference, has been very rewarding.

What is the most important thing that you’ve learned from tutoring? How have you been able to apply it to other areas of your life?

The main thing that I’ve learned is how to approach a problem or question from multiple different perspectives. I’ve realized that, just because something makes sense to me or because I understand a concept a certain way, doesn’t mean that it will translate easily to another person. Learning how to explain ideas in ways that other people will understand has definitely helped me develop problem-solving skills. It’s also forced me to think about how to present ideas clearly and concisely, which is really useful in my own studies.

How has your tutoring experience added to your overall college experience? Anything that you’ve learned that you’ve been able to apply to areas of college life?

I think in general tutoring has made me feel more connected with the Claremont community. Even in grad school, you’re mainly interacting with people who are around your age or in a similar stage of their lives, so in tutoring younger students and working with their parents I’ve definitely been able to interact with a greater variety of people than I would otherwise. In terms of what I’ve been able to apply to my own life, I think that giving advice to my students has helped me realize what I need to do in my own studies. I write a lot of papers, and I’ve started to approach my own work by thinking about what advice I would give to students, and how I could apply that to myself.

How does tutoring online vary from your in-person sessions? Are there any unexpected pros/cons of tutoring online that you’ve noticed?

I was definitely nervous about it at first, but, by this point especially, I’ve gotten so used to it that I don’t really think about the difference. Having the Whiteboard and other online tools has been really helpful. I’ve noticed that in some cases, in particular with my younger students, being able to do tutoring online in their own homes has made them more comfortable. I think for younger students, or for those who are nervous about meeting one-on-one with a tutor, having a lesson from home helps put them at ease and makes them more confident in asking questions, or being honest about what they do or do not know.

Working with students online has also forced me as a tutor to be more creative in thinking about how to convey information. Especially with younger students, it’s harder to get them engaged over a screen, so I’ve had to come up with new ways to present lessons. It’s definitely been an interesting learning experience, but I think there are things that I’ve gained from doing online lessons and having to think outside of the box that I would also be able to apply to in-person sessions in the future.

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