This paper was written at the end of the semester in MATH 2644: Math Tutoring. For this class, I was required to get a job as a one-on-one math tutor. I worked in the Student Athlete Academic Support Services office tutoring student athletes in a variety of math courses. In this reflection, I talk about how I think the semester went overall, focusing on what I did well and what I need to work on in the future.
Prior to this semester, I had very little long-term tutoring experience. I worked on the floor at the Math Emporium last year and have helped friends with math every now and then. However, I was never able to establish a consistent tutor-tutoree relationship. I was very apprehensive going in to my first tutoring session this year, but this job turned out to be very fun and educational. My experiences this semester taught me some very important information about one-on-one tutoring which will not only help me in future tutoring jobs, but I can also use these lessons to strengthen my abilities as an educator.
Throughout this semester, I worked with a few different students with varying learning styles. Even though they were in the same classes, I couldn’t help them all out in the same way; they needed to see the problem from a different perspective. For example, when helping one student remember the different formulas for the exponential functions in Math 1525, I came up with certain words or sayings that would help him remember which function to use and the order of the variables. Another one of my Math 1525 students struggled with the same problem, so I tried to help him in the same way as the first student. The words and phrases did nothing to help him remember things, but when I drew graphs of each function and asked him to think about what would happen in each situation, he perfectly understood which equations to use. I ran into this problem a few times, but it taught me a valuable lesson: each person learns mathematics in a very different way—some people can be told how to do it, while others need to see a picture to understand. I realized the importance of identifying my student’s learning strategies quickly so that I can help them in the best way possible. Also, in my future career as an educator, I will have many students in my classroom that will learn in a variety of ways. It will be up to me to figure out their learning styles and vary my teaching strategies accordingly so that every student in my classroom can learn the material and succeed in my class.
Another important lesson I learned this semester is the importance of patience. Often times, my students would forget key items from previous lessons or not understand how one problem connects to previous concepts. Since I have been studying math for a long time, these problems were easy for me to understand, and I would sometimes get frustrated with my students for not seeing the connection. Throughout the semester, though, I realized that frustration and anger are not appropriate in the tutoring environment as they only make things worse. Instead, I exhibited patience and calmly break down the problem for my students in order to guide them in the right direction. Whenever I helped them out in this way, they would correctly solve the problem and would be more likely to remember how to do them in future. This is also an important tool for me in the classroom. Instead of just working one-on-one, I will have about twenty students who may not be able to see the connections all the time. If I work with them with patience, kindness, and the ability to view the situation objectively, my students will be able to fully learn the concepts with which they are struggling.
Finally, I noticed how important my attitude is to the productivity of the tutoring session. Whenever I was very happy and enthusiastic about the topic, my students seemed to be more willing to learn and practice the concepts. But, whenever I was unhappy or a little down, my students would complain about doing the work and not focus as well as usual. Fortunately, I am a very happy person and mathematics excites me, so I was very enthusiastic at all of my tutoring sessions. I even had a student tell me one time that he really enjoys working on math when I’m around because I make it much more fun. When I teach in a classroom or help a student one-on-one, I need to make sure that I am cheerful and enthusiastic without overdoing the emotions. That way, my students will get more excited about mathematics themselves, and therefore increase their likelihood of succeeding in the subject.
This semester really taught me some of the finer points of teaching and working one-on-one with students. I got to experience different learning styles first-hand and coming up with creative ways of explaining things on the spot. I noticed that my attitude affected that of my students, so I had to remain positive and uplifting throughout the session. This act took a lot of patience, which I must also demonstrate when working with students. I will take all of these lessons with me into my future career as an educator and continue to practice them in future tutoring opportunities until then.