Following up with the aftermentioned idea from the previous post, I gave my idea a try. I hadn’t intended to put my idea to test that day, but it just so happened that it was the first period, and I was exceedingly grumpy. I was simply tired of asking one of my students to stop singing, and start working. Thinking back, this worked much better than before. At first, it was evident, that to some extent my tutees gave some resistance to the new changes. So they sang louder and told more jokes. It didn’t take long for Ms Wise to step in, and soon, the trio was separated into a pair. And not long after, the classroom became quieter than it was before, and generally, students worked more efficiently.
Although the student that was the embodiment of the meandering butterfly and short attention span was still struggled to concentrate, I found it much easier to check up on him more frequently and devote more of my attention to him. There were fewer students that were blatantly off task, whom I had to remind to stay focused, and I would say, my idea was a success.
Meandering and a short attention span, with a tendency to focus more on trivial things, rather than the task at hand seem to be a reoccurring problem amongst my tutees. During work time, I could ask a student to focus, and start working, and ten minutes later, I could find him staring at his paper, without a word written. Specifically, there was one student that seemed to embody this issue the most. At one point, most of the other students were approaching the end of the fourth part of their assignment, while he was nowhere near close to being finished with the second part (keeping in mind that most of the other students were behind schedule as well-they were supposed to be done with part five at that point). It took me two class periods of constantly reminding him to stay focused, and work at home, with no success, until finally, Ms Wise stepped in, and gave him a talk.
Thinking back on this, this presents two problems – the obvious one would be that the students have trouble focusing, the less obvious was my inability to ‘get students to listen’. They are less likely to listen and act on what I say, then they would, with Ms Wise. While reflecting on this, I had realized with a bang while I was showering – it was the way I speak and talk with my tutees. Originally, I had intended for myself to be more of a peer than a ‘teacher’, but in a classroom setting, this is not the most optimal. You cannot expect every student to stay focused when you have to walk around checking 20 others. I believe that adopting a more clipped tone that is a hallmark of a stereotype for teachers, and ‘bossing’ students around a bit more may bring favourable results.
Continuing on with the issues that had plagued my tutoring for the past two weeks, I may have found myself a solution. After talking with my mentor for tutor training, Mr Dilts, and giving some thought to what may coun as acceptable and not. As I have iterated before maintaining a healthy relationship between tutor and tutee is essential for tutoring. A tutor should not only be a role model – but also know when to draw the line and say ‘stop’.
Banter between friends and jokes are always fun, but are not always appropriate. Sometimes, you just have to say, stop, you’re in class, leave that for sometime else.
Following up with the aftermentioned issue presented in my previous entry things have gotten worse – not in the sense that the students hate me now, but more inclined that they treat me more and more like a friend or a peer. I can safely say, there is considerably more banter between me and my tutees – they seem more willing to crack jokes, be willy – although I am not entirely sure if this is a good thing. It is one thing to be close with your tutees, and another where they completely disregard authority. I hope they still respect what I say, and tell them to do, but also not regard me as aloof, and treat me as though I am a peer.
As I become more and more familiar with my tutees, problems that I had never thought I would face when writing earlier entries of this journal arise – I would’ve never thought to have too much to talk about could become a problem. Some of the more extroverted and outwarding students jump at every opportunity to satisfy their need to distract themselves from the task at hand. And I was a walking talking curiosity that quenches this thirst, and more often then not, I find my presence to do more harm than good. Frequently, I find it challenging to disengage myself from the small talk they bring to me. I feel as though I am walking the line between becoming a peer – or friend, even – and a figure of authority. If I were to be quite honest, I would prefer to be a peer to these students – considering they are only 3 years younger than me, I believe this would be more beneficial. But considering the current drawbacks, being less friendly and open would bring many advantages, although could make my tutoring much more painful.
I think that choosing a style that suits your tutees is important, and understanding them can help influence the decision. Tutoring is a learning process for both ends, and only with time, can yield the most optimum results.
First week back from spring break and I am already having trouble – the science classroom that I am tutoring is still adjusting back to school life, as am I. To make matters worse, they have started something completely new (a project I have never experienced in 6th grade) – an engineering project that revolves around impact – doing what can cause what, and how can certain actions relieve, and make the world a better place. Unfortunately, what my tutees are doing isn’t done in the science classroom; it takes place in the newly minted ‘Fab Lab’, short for Fabrication Lab, taught by the engineering teacher, Mrs Lemley. The greatest issue would perhaps be that this was mostly a class that allowed the students to ‘free roam’; they were given a loose sheet that told them what needed to be researched, and what needed to be down, all the while in a class of twenty students, with two teachers and not much teaching, but more self-learning involved. I felt increasingly useless and struggled quite a bit.
But (to some twisted) extent, I was somewhat reasurred that Ms Wise was also at a bit of loss herself. I realized that although I may not have much in grasp for engineering, in the already limited opportunities to provide aid, this shows that I should always refer to a greater authority when tutoring in unfamiliar waters, as shown by Ms Wise. It is quite alright to let a lot of things pass, especially when it is more important to give correct information, rather than more.
Being a tutor isn’t just a part-time thing, that you would participate every once in a while – it is a full-time job, that you have to take seriously ALL THE TIME. Unfortunately, outside the classroom, you can’t simply just take the ‘tutor’ hat off and act in whatever ways you usually do – you’re as much of a role model, and subject to your tutee’s scrutiny outside the class as you are in. This is something I learned – rather annoyingly. In the rare occasion that a freshman would bump into a 6th grader in our respective classrooms, outside the tutor-tutee relationship, somehow, one of my tutees managed to catch a whole earful of the vulgar banter I was sharing joyously with my mates – 6th graders, unfortunately, understand the slangs we used, and for some profound reason, is a huge ‘no-no’ in their eyes.
On both ends of the spectrum, I realized that although I should be able to retain my personal freedoms, on the other side, I understand that children catch on quickly, and swearing, is a habit that they probably should try and avoid, for as long as possible. But fortunately, my tutees were mature enough to take my obscenities seriously, but unfortunately for me, they were not mature enough to stop teasing me about my mishap. I feel that it is much more secure for me to be safe, rather than sorry, so sacrificing some personal freedoms is more than justifiable
Knowing how to decipher a students thought processes through the notes the write for activities is a very important skill that I should try and master. Usually, most critical errors that students made are displayed obviously – there had been more than enough cases where I’ve looked over a student’s work, decided that it was perfectly alright, move on to the next one, and have Ms Wise come over a little while later, and spot numerous errors I’ve never even noticed. Part of it, in my opinion, is due to experience; but my training also plays a huge factor as well – not only is science not my forte, but my training is comparatively thin (a 3 week online course took up the bulk of my training), and considering that most teachers train (I believe) for 2-3 years, I guess it is not unacceptable to have some mishaps and faulty judgement here and there.
Being a high school student tutoring middle school students also presents its own issues – namely, my age. Its a constant struggle to get the few stubborn kids to stop calling me ‘Mr Dennis’, when I’m literally only 3 years senior to them. But on the other hand, despite the 6th grade kids calling me Mr Dennis, I’m not much of an authority figure. There had been quite a few cases were students would have their minds meander in the middle of Ms Wise’s lecturing, whilst I was standing right next to them – in part, this could be of my own doing: in general, my tone of voice is mild, when in many cases I should’ve been more harsh, or disappointed. I feel as though, often times, I am not getting my point through – whether it be to focus and listen, or to stop whispering conversations with your neighbour. But another part may also be the simple fact that I am only 3 years older – 3 years more mature (I hope), but nevertheless, still young enough to share their humour, and understand their struggles.
As I start the become more familiar with the students, it becomes more challenging to not socialize, especially when the students I’m tutoring are within my age group – there is only a three year age gap between us. I find that impossible for me to outright ignore comments of small talk, but finding times that are appropriate for such proves to be a problem. Engaging in conversations about high school, and whatnot is fine before class, and at times, maybe a couple of comments in class is also acceptable. But I find maintaining a balance between engaging in appropriate amounts of conversation with the tutees and engaging too little or too much a difficulty – too little, and I risk becoming the ‘mean boring one’ that generally isn’t trusted by the students, and not the most optimal in a learningenvironment (in my opinion, I worked fairly hard for the students to begin to trust me); but too much, would mean I had spent precious time engaging in less productive conversations, then helping my tutees learn, and answer (sometimes) essential questions.
In truth, a lot of this is due to the simple fact that I am inexperienced. Ms Wise also engages in a healthy amount of small talk with her students, but still manages to get work done. There are times when talking about whatever comes to mind with students is justified, and there are times where saying a sharp ‘NO!’ and telling your tutees to focus on the task at hand is also alright.
After finishing my online training course, Tuesday, was technically my first class, as a tutor. Although I had met the students that I was to be tutoring in the science class I was assigned to, once, before the Chinese New Year, the students were rather pre-occupied in doing well in an assessment – there wasn’t much ‘tutoring work’ involved on my end.
Starting on Tuesday, I immediately realized the students didn’t trust me – they would rather ask Ms Wise (the teacher of the class I was assigned to) for assistance, than me, who (in some occasions) literally stood right next to their seats. Granted, I was also a bit shy – there were some awkward moments here and there when I was pondering whether I should walk over to the student, or just leave him to Ms Wise, and as I start to move over, Ms Wise was already there. But trust seemed to come quickly for me, and by the second class on Thursday, the students seemed more willing to let me help and acted less reserved. In my opinion, this served as a rather dramatic confidence boost in my skills, and I became less shy in moments, I would’ve been more, in the previous class. However, becoming more confident those pose some of its own problems. There was one example where I remember clearly, with me helping a student dissect an open-ended question on an assignment doled out in the class by Ms Wise, in which there were some points, I had told him were not relating to what Ms Wise was asking. Turns out, it was, although to a lesser extent, and not the main focus. Nevertheless, this should only serve as a warning, and a problem I should remain vigilant in spotting.