Quick Blog – Tutoring Observation

As I was tutoring a college student tonight, I realized something about my role as a math tutor.  It is not the bit of instruction, the small corrections, or the seasoned explanation that help my pupils the most.  No, the most helpful thing I do in these sessions is nod, smile, and say “Yes, that’s right.” 

This does not belittle my importance in the interaction.  It is my encouragement and validation of the student’s method that allows him or her to continue, unburdened by doubt.

Students that go into a math assignment anxious approach each problem in uncertainty.  They have doubts about each step they take.  If they should stumble the slightest bit, the uncertainty takes hold and they lose faith in their line of thought and their work up to that point.  Then the problem feels hopeless and the lesson’s simplicity gets obscured by the fear’s complexity.

So, I am proud to sit back and just nod encouragement as the student does all the work.  It is one of the greatest forms of support I can offer.

On a related note, I noticed on the drive home from the tutoring meeting that I am prouder of the small fee I earned for that couple of hours than I am of the wage I earned working nearly ten hours at my “real” job before hand.