Monday, November 07, 2005

Elite of the University: Tutors

Ladies and gentlemen… let me introduce you to the elite of the University: the Tutors!

For those of you who do not know what/who are tutors, they are basically students who assist lecturers and run tutorials in exchange for experience (and a sad cash reward of $1(US) per hour. You start your career as a tutor for General Psych and then apply for other classes based on how well you did for that paper.

Lets see now, All you need to do, to become a tutor is make sure you have an A for your Intro to General Psych (yeah, as if that’s hard) and then maintain a B+ (or 3.3 average for the respective Psychology paper of choice. Besides the having a top grade, it doesn’t matter if you were a loony cause no one really cares.

Tutors come in all sizes and shapes (BIG ones and little ones). They have all kinds of interests, all kinds of hobbies, and all sorts of ideas. While tutoring to some of us is a life time privilege and a huge honor. The tutoring experience, not only looks good on your CV but gives you a whole range of experiences such as delivering real lecturers, presenting tutorials, marking quizzes, and checking papers. None of these are typical of an undergraduate opportunity, hence it is a real privilege.

Students join in this tutor program for all kinds of reasons. Some of the darker reasons are becoming evident as some tutors have become more of an elitist society of bullshitters who are more concerned about the privilege of being called a tutor rather than paying much attention to the responsibilities attached.

Why do I say so?

During a casual conversation, I asked a few student tutors about why they signed up for the tutoring program. Here are their responses.

1. “ It makes chances of dating someone of the opposite/same sex higher”. LOOSER
2. “ I can use the tutor room to sleep/rest/eat”. What the F**k? go home or go some where else. What are cafĂ©’s for?
3. “Look intelligent”. Yeah right! During a tutorial this one tutors reply (defense of utter ignorance) to a complicated question was “that’s the way its always been done, don’t ask why”. FOOL…
4. “Its really cool to be a tutor!” Yeah right! Go join the ‘Image club’
5. “I want my picture on the tutor board!” Moron, this is not a singles lounge.

Why do I think that these elitist tutors are bullshitters?

1. They respond to student questions saying “that’s just the way it is”.
2. When unsure of how to solve a problem, promises student to get back to him/her later, but conveniently forget all about it.
3. Disregard administrative responsibilities. Marking quizzes are a chore, but its still a duty. I know some tutors who just don’t pay attention to administrative work because they find it ‘boring’
4. When asked to explain a difficult concept, start talking in gibberish. On top of that, make it sound as if the student is really stupid for asking that in the first place.
5. Have the attitude that they are above all other students. On top of that, they complain that students are disinterested in attending tutorials. While this issues of student drop out is present, it only affects those tutors who are trying very hard. Bullshitters generally use this as an example to mask the true reason for dropping out (sucky tutorials rather than student disinterest).

I have pondered why tutors like sitting on their “tutorly throne” (or rather swivel-y chair - thanks Kj) and impart knowledge on to the ‘mere-students’.

For you dear tutors/staff I have the following comments.

A) First and foremost, make sure you hire/select tutors with the right attitude.
B) The elitist attitude has to go… learn to relax and enjoy your time with the students. (thanks Kat)
C) If you cant, then get counseling cause trying to cover your own inadequacies (small penis perhaps?) via tutoring doesn’t help anyone (neither is it going to fix your original problem)
D) Get real, the 4RM/hour reward schedule, puts lab rats into shame. Understand that tutoring is not about the financial gain, but rather about the rewards in experience. Its about learning and experiencing the things that you could never exchange for money. Cheating out on that experience would mean that you are depriving another more deserving student from making use of the opportunity.
E)Understand that learning comes from the experiences that are embraced. If you do have aspirations to become a truly good psychologist, then start now. If you feel that its too hard, then perhaps a change of career to Mass communication would help.

I do realize that there are inherent problems with students perceptions of who tutors are. Some very good tutors who I know, face difficulty connecting with their students due a lack of interest on the part of the student. However, this is not to be confused with the elitist attitude of certain that I am highlighting here (my thoughts on students coming up on a later blog).

Finally, I would like to leave you with some comments that tutors should be longing to hear from their students. Perhaps this will give you an idea as to what tutor goals should be built towards.

Here are comments you WANT to hear or should be hearing:

"Not only did I get a better understanding, but I started to love the material, thanks to my tutor."
"I never felt stupid asking him/her questions."
"My tutor seemed sincerely interested in my improvements, no matter how small."
"I think I had my foot in the door and just needed someone to push me in the right direction."
"Her tips will last a lifetime."
"In his clear and straightforward manner, my tutor explained concepts that had totally confused me in lecture. The tutor’s style, however, was never condescending, and I always felt that he respected my intelligence as a student."
"What always impresses me is how my tutor didn’t just explain things, but she always actively involves me in the dialogue. Even if I say I understand the concept, she asks me a question just to reaffirm my understanding. I have found this extremely helpful."
“My tutor pointed out problems with my paper, yet made me think about why it was a problem. This will help me not make the mistake in the future. S/he was just genuinely very helpful and nice.”
“ My tutor helped me break down my overwhelming paper into parts I can handle.”
“ My tutor was patient and easy to understand. I felt comfortable working with him/her.”
“ I like the calm atmosphere, not feeling embarrassed. I wasn't rushed. I was able to work through it all.”
“My tutor was very patient and helpful with my third-grade questions on citing sources”
“ My tutor took the time to allow me to find my own mistakes making sure that I understood the suggestions that were made”

Now.. Do you really think that you are cut out to become a tutor?

Astrorat would like to thank Kj for helpful comments on creating this post


mythsn_legends said...

I think if these breed of tutors keep up their reasons for being tutors in addition to having that kind of attitude, they are going to be in deep shit when it comes to their future careers.

Steph said...

My lecturer used to say "There is no stupid questions in this world, there's only stupid answers." So tutors, just when you think your students are asking stupid questions, think about the 'brilliant' answers you're going to give.

Right. I can't help but to feel disgusted with the listed reasons from those few tutors who applied for the tutoring program. Very dissapointing.

Just some notes to the tutors, if you're not ready for the challenge, if you don't intend to be a good tutor, if you don't know what a true tutor means, if you think being a tutor means you're the smart-ass, if being tutor is purely for your own benefits, if you are not ready to dedicate, to contribute, to learn, to share...then forget being one. Coz' it's not cool.

franky said...

hahaha.. its actually rather funny to think that some people perceive being a tutor is "cool".. hmmm..

anyway.. i guess these people have no idea what is in store for them.. and i would have to say that its rather pathetic to have such a mindframe. and somehow, it seems as though their attitude towards this tutorship is rather shallow..

this is my opinion lah..

astrorat said...

Hi Myths n Legends,
You are right. It certainly is not the right attitude to have as a tutor. I don’t even think that they would get very far in a teaching career without a passion for it.

Dear Steph,
Your lecturer was right to say that there are "no stupid questions". Perhaps people ask stupid questions cause you didn’t explain it to them well enough! And i certainly agree, that a brilliant idea that is communicated well, should fix stupidity in all directions.

Dear Franky,
Believe me, tutoring is a lot of hard work. And a "shallow" attitude as you so nicely put, spells disaster.

:) Astrorat

Aly Cat 121 said...

I would always tell my students that just because someone get's an A doesn't mean they are smarter than you. Nor does it mean they can then teach it to others. It just means that they know how to get A's. But no one really believes me when I say that.

astrorat said...

Hi Aly Cat, you are right. Not every one really matures in the 'art' of teaching. it does take lots of time and patience :)

che cosa hai suc'cesso? said...

coolness surpassing responsibility? odd but there's no denying that the phenomenon do exist.
"the only way to find success first without hard work can only be found in the dictionary"
author unknown.