Working as a Tutor Taught me to Teach College

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I work at a tutoring center. Well, it’s technically the Student Resource Center, but my job there is mainly as a tutor, though I have started to do small bits of administration and coordination as well. I really stumbled into the job, and it is honestly one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I was hired on as an adjunct professor to teach some developmental English courses (Basic Writing 2), and the first week of the semester was faculty orientation. We had our first faculty meeting, so I, being newly hired and wanting to learn everything involving my new institution, attended. A lady got up in front of the group and told about a new vision for what she called the SRC. It was going to be a tutoring center as well as a computer lab where students at our college could come and do their homework and receive help in any discipline. The only problem was that she needed tutors. For everything.

This makes me start to think that since I’m a new teacher and this is my first teaching experience, I need to get in on this. If nothing else, the SRC will be a nice bullet on my resume. I am a very shy person around those I do not know, but I get the nerve up to approach her, and we talk and work out that I will be an English tutor and will receive the hourly wage the same as all the other tutors even though I am considered faculty (keep in mind, I had intended to toss a few hours at this for nothing more than the experience and resume building, so even minimal hourly wages added up).

Over the course of the first month there, I find out that I really love the place. I love tutoring. The one on one time with the students is invaluable to my teaching in the classroom. I find new ways to relay the information to students in ways that never even cross my mind in front of a class. I think it’s because I have to react to my individual students and get the point across to them in a way that only they can understand, and sometimes I have to simplify an idea so much that I realize that I’ve been lecturing in a completely complicated manner.

It also appeared during this first month that I was good at what I was doing. I was requested more and more as a tutor, and my director allowed me (and two other tutors who had the same rapport with students) to have more hours and additional responsibilities. This is yet another bullet to my resume because now I am not only a tutor, but one of the supervising tutors. Over the course of the semester, the director gives us even more additional responsibilities. These have now bled over into the current semester, and the outlook is good for more permanent growth in the fall semester once my Master’s degree is finished.

It takes patience to tutor, so if you don’t have any, then perhaps this may not be the route for you. If you do have that in you, then perhaps being a tutor would be a good way to get some teaching experience. I have learned in my time in the Student Resource Center how I need to handle troublesome students and those who are unwilling to meet me halfway. Without this experience, my attitude in the classroom when multiple students are acting this way at the same time, I am not sure if I would have kept my cool.

Also, tutoring in a place like our SRC is great to get a mentor. I am lucky in that I got three. The administrative staff of the SRC is how I learned how to handle tough situations brought on by students. I was able to get sample syllabi and advice about situations I had never been placed in before (college policy on late work, attendance, finals, etc.). Without the staff’s help, my first year teaching would have been a much rockier ride than it turned out to be. I made some friends, too, and I actually consider them more than colleagues. Anyone will tell you, your first year in the classroom is the one that will make or break you; utilizing a tutoring lab as a testing ground for new techniques is the perfect way to make sure that what you’re teaching makes a difference.

My point is that had I not gone out of my comfort zone and talked to the director of the SRC, I would have missed out on a great learning experience, both academically and professionally. I like to tutor. I like the students. I like the resource center. And they seem to like me, too. I’ve made a lot of friends here, and I’ve carved myself a niche that shows I’m forward-thinking and possess the initiative to get things done around here. That’s the most important thing. In my first semester here, I feel as though I’ve made myself a valuable asset to this college and the Student Resource Center that would hurt to lose. And I feel the same way about it; I have found a job that fits me. I think I have something of a symbiotic relationship with it; we feed off each other (but in a good way!).

And I think that’s the important thing. In everything that you do, especially in a world like academics, you have to make yourself invaluable. You have to bring something to the team that is necessary that they may not have known was necessary before you. I think that I have such a unique personality and outlook on education that I can help foster learning from those who would ordinarily shun academics. That’s something that any educational institution should grasp and hold on to. Find what it is that you bring to the team, embrace it, and make your supervisor realize that you’re too good to let go.

By B.J. Keeton

B.J. KEETON is a writer, teacher, and runner. When he isn't trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he is either writing science fiction, watching an obscene amount of genre television, or looking for new ways to integrate fitness into his geektastic lifestyle. He is also the author of BIRTHRIGHT and co-author of NIMBUS. Both books are available for Amazon Kindle.

1 comment

  1. ahh beej I consider u more than just someone i work with too!!!You and Jennifer are both a perment part of my life like it or not!!!

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