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Adapting Tutoring to Student Needs & the Daunting Task of “Teaching”

This post is part of a series written by Paper's tutors. Each post takes you behind the screen, uncovering their perspectives and expertise. This week, Tutor Cynthia explains how she creates meaningful interactions with students, and gets them excited about learning.

So it’s finally happened: for some reason or another your student either hasn’t absorbed anything from their lesson, or they’ve willfully ignored their teacher all semester.

What now?

It might be tempting to throw in the towel, and defer your student in favor of one who ‘gets it’ or is a bit more of a ‘teacher’s pet.’

As a tutor, a lot goes into the process of supplementing student knowledge. But the greatest and most rewarding challenge lies in teaching concepts (sometimes from scratch!) and growing together as student and tutor.

Teachers are a student’s first line of communication with the outside world, and to a huge extent their first real encounter with the ‘real world’ starts at school. There are expectations, standards of excellence, and the student with the smaller class size, extra curricular tutor, or legacy of family PhD holders tends to get the most out of the public school experience. It goes without saying therefore that some students feel they’re at such a disadvantage that it’s grounds enough to act out, ignore their teachers’ lessons, and shirk their homework.

Being a tutor has everything to do with creating meaningful interactions with students, to get them excited about learning and inspired to aim high.

For example, some of the most frequently asked questions from students revolve around studying tips. Students seem genuinely excited to see how we university students study, annotate texts, and go in search of extra curricular resources.

It’s a given that many students are never given a crash course in ‘how to study’ and so they rely on tutors for vital information to help them survive exams. In this regard, a tutor’s job really is to teach a new skill, and inform a student’s perspective about how fun and rewarding school can really be.

But what about language barriers which discourage students?

Learning a new language is tough enough, but when a student feels they’re flying solo through their coursework, they might intentionally ditch the subject or not pay attention. Again, it’s easy to feel frustrated when students don’t seem to want to learn, as much as you feel you want to teach.

It’s quite a demand of a humble Paper tutor to essentially teach grammar rules and verb conjugation from scratch. But this is no time to panic, because if you can supplement knowledge like a champ, you can introduce new concepts and ideas just as well!

A student who’s cramming for their Spanish verb test may indeed be cramming, but they’re showing an interest in learning- however faint! Through consistent tutor feedback, carefully picked extracurricular resources, and a can-do attitude, you can effectively learn to tackle a new language together.

It’s not so hard to introduce a student to the basics of Spanish, French, Mandarin, or ESL so long as you can hone in on that little desire to ace their exams and make their in-school teachers proud. As a tutor you’re your own Rosetta Stone, and your own Google translate; all it takes to effectively ‘teach’ something new to your students is a bit of adaptability and patience.

You’d be absolutely amazed at what your students can accomplish with a smidgen of guidance, and a tutor who’s excited to cover new material.

Headshot of Tutor Cynthia

Cynthia, Paper Tutor

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