Reflections of a Volunteer Tutor

Nov 21, 2018   |   Hai Oufan

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“I like going for tuition sessions,” said my tutee at the last session of the Tuition Programme.

I had to admit that the question caught me somewhat off guard. It also prompted me to reflect upon what we had done throughout the year in tutoring sessions.

In a typical session, I will start off addressing the difficulties my tutee faces in homework, be it Mathematics, English or Chinese. During the last 30 minutes of the session, I would usually go through about a hundred Chinese flashcards with my tutee to end off the session.

A typical tuition session at the primary school I was assigned to.

I can still vividly remember our second tuition session. My tutee, along with some of his friends, asked me incredulously, “Are you really from Raffles?”

Wasn’t expecting this question at all, I paused for a moment before saying, “Yes.” These children need not only a tutor, I thought, they also need a role model, someone they could look up to and trust.

Now, after almost a year, I wanted to know how much progress we have made.

“How do you think you have changed?” I asked my tutee.

“At first, I didn’t really like to study. But now after you’ve shown me the various ‘fun’ things about studying, like the ruler ‘thing’ you showed me (I had demonstrated a simple method of finding the pivot of a relatively long object such as a ruler), I find studying more fun.”

“What about your goals? What school do you want to go to after primary school?” I ventured.

“Your school (Raffles Institution).”

“Well, do you think Heartware and I have helped you to reach your goal?”

“Yeah! I feel I’m closer (to achieving my goal),” quipped my tutee cheerfully.

Teacher’s Day cards from my tutee.

That moment we had was precious as it could be the last time I tutor this child. I wanted to know if I had helped positively impacted his life. So, I told him so.

“Really ah! Last time already? A bit sad eh. And yeah! It is fun hanging out with you and the other tutors.”

That was relieving! The only response I could master is patting him on the back and hurrying him join the celebration (we held a small celebration to mark the end of the Tuition Programme).

One end always marks another beginning. Looking forward, I started to think about how we could improve and better help these angelic souls. If I could suggest some ways, it is to propose a systematic writing training for tutees to spend time forming good habits such as the habit of writing and reading, and ultimately reaching us tutors’ goals of making sustained positive impact on them.

It will be beneficial too, if tutors conduct sessions with groups of three to five. When team dynamics are right, students can bounce ideas and get stimulated in creativity.

My fellow tutors and I (I’m at the most right).

Tutoring is no easy task. In my opinion, the younger the tutee, the more challenging it is. Tutoring is never a one way process; when the tutor is giving, the tutee must be “tuned in” to receive it. It is never as easy as completing what you have to say, and hoping for the student to understand it right away. That’s too much to ask for.

Instead, a deeper level of connection and rapport is needed to pull off a successful session of learning. I sincerely hope my tutee can reach his goal and hopefully, I will be able to see him in Raffles when I come back in year the 2020 to receive my A level result.

To all incoming volunteer tutors: Confucius said, “I hear, and I forget; I see, and I remember; I do, and I understand.” Do not just tell your tutees facts and methods, but help your tutees to understand; do not seem distant and authoritative, but become their friends; do not think it is just another volunteering duty, but treat your tutee with care and understanding.

Do not just use your brain, engage your heart as well.