One of my earliest pieces for the Examiner reflected on my adventures in tutoring for the Northern Virginia Tutoring Service. It was titled; The Keys to Learning College Level Chemistry. Two years later tutoring high school Chemistry continues to be a rewarding and educational experience, in addition to a good additional source of income.
This year has been slow for me business-wise and only two students have needed my services. Similar to my students over the last three to four years, they have been mutually educational experiences in their own way. Whether they knew it or not, the students taught me some things.
Interestingly, none my students have been exactly the same in terms of their needs and each has been unique. Each have all been smart kids, and have fallen into different categories, regarding their individual needs. Though they are listed separately, some students were mixtures of the following groups. Among them are:
• Students who have fallen behind and lost hope- These students have all of the ability in the world but have fallen behind in their AP/IB Chemistry course. Perhaps they didn’t know what they were getting into when they signed up for the course. Perhaps they were involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities (sports, band, or other clubs kinds of clubs) which require them to have stellar time management skills. In a lot of ways, these are the easiest students to work with if they’re caught early enough because their confidence just needs to be built back up and once they’re drilled on the fundamentals of the course, they usually do very well.
• Students who have performed poorly all year and want a strong finish- This group is similar to the above mentioned group. Parents call in the third or fourth quarter of the year because they want their child to have a strong showing on the final exam. This group of student usually needs a lot of work in a short period of time, usually right down to the final exam and if they buy in, they can usually come away with a decent grade.
• Students who don’t really need a lot of help- This is a difficult group to work with because their grades are often hovering around 85% or more, so they actually know what they’re doing to a large degree. Mom, Dad and the student are upset though because it isn’t 90% or better. Because they’re usually at a very competitive school where the teachers are trying to get them to think like college students, points can be taken off for not participating in group discussions, or because the student is coming to class in “acquisition mode,” instead of “synthesis and participation mode.” The time working with these students tends to be short lived.
• Students who find it helpful to have someone there just to do the problems with them- This is another interesting group, because the students are actually quite bright, but they just feel more comfortable having a tutor there going over their Chemistry problems with them, pointing them in the right direction, asking them questions, etc.
As a tutor, there are numerous challenges. The greatest indicator that you are being effective is the student’s grades. In some instances, you’re working with the student only once a week and they aren’t doing their part the rest of the week so their grade doesn’t improve. In these cases, it’s helpful for the tutor, teacher and parent to all be in communication with one another.
In some instances, students are on very strict schedules that are inflexible. If you have to a miss a session with a client for any reason before a rapport is established with that particular family, you can easily lose your client to another tutor. Families and parents vary too. Some parents coddle their teen while others are more firm. Both can affect your ability to tutor their child.
These are just some of reflections on tutoring in Chemistry since my last article on this subject. It has its ups and downs, as well as surprises, but overall it’s very rewarding experience. Lastly, sometimes as a tutor the students teach you things as well.