I hate being called a tutor.
It’s not that I have anything against tutors. It’s how my classmates and me got through our chemistry courses at Bates, by tutoring one another. If I had a question about something specific, I would meet up with my study group and ask. Invariably, someone helped.
That was tutoring. It wasn’t teaching. And I’m a teacher.
What’s the difference?
According to the CRLA (College Reading and Learning Association): “Tutoring is responding to questions about lessons already taught”
And there it is. Its one thing to know the subject material well, but a teacher knows how to explain the most esoteric concepts in their field twelve different ways, until a student truly “gets it.”
- Understands how students think and learn
- Engages a student and conveys real passion and interest for the material
- Is able to teach concepts and skills more efficiently (less time)
- Is able to teach in a manner that allows students to retain and recall information longer
- Knows where a student is going to make the majority of their mistakes before they make them
- Builds confidence, especially when a student is at his or her most vulnerable.
Teaching is a craft. I don’t think anyone can decide one morning to perform the services of a doctor, a lawyer, an account, an electrician, a carpenter, or a musician, and actually be competent at it.
There is a reason doctors do residency, lawyer clerk and tradesmen apprentice. Specialized fields, like teaching, have to be practiced, thought about, critiqued, improved upon, critiqued again, constantly developed and tested.
So, it amazes me a little bit that someone would ask just about anyone to teach them something, using superfluous criteria such as if the potential tutor went to a good school or if they earned an A in the class.
Shouldn’t their teaching, training and experience factor in? Of course it should. It should be the first and foremost question on a student’s or parent’s mind; not price, not convenience but real training and experience.
Don’t get me wrong, tutors are helpful, tutoring has its place in education. If a student just has a question or two, something akin to explaining a detail or showing how to do a step in a twelve-step problem, a tutor is the right choice.
But, I and my fellow teachers see these situations only about 10% of the time.
More often than not, I am approached because something is fundamentally wrong, they are not learning in class, their study skills could use some help, and they need someone to teach them, and not just answer a question.
And, since I focus on every aspect of their academic lives, the work that I do is more meaningful, powerful, and the results, the marked improvements, speak for themselves.
I hate being called a tutor, because I am a teacher.
So, next time you are thinking about hiring a tutor, imagine asking a stranger on the street to take out your appendix, then call a teacher!
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