Interviewed by: Cassidy, Administrative Liaison at My Private Professor
Meet our amazing tutor, Matthew I., and learn about what got him into tutoring, how he feels about the challenges facing education, and some tips on how to engage students during their tutoring sessions.
Watch the full interview here.
You have been with us over a year now and I want to know – how would you say your experience is working with us?
Overall, I think my experience has been great because for me the biggest part I struggled with, I’ve done tutoring in the past, I did it privately. But I always struggled with the administrative part of it. The setting up the schedules, keeping things organized, actually meeting clients, and putting myself out there. I’m not very good at that whole thing. I always was better at the teaching aspect of it so working with My Private Professor has been amazing because you guys handle all of that and I pretty much just get to focus on doing the tutoring. You let me set my own hours, you let me set my own rates so it’s as much freedom as I could hope for while not having to worry about logistics.
What about education inspires you?
I think the biggest inspiration from education that inspires me is that it provides opportunities. Many people, I mean, we all know today, it kind of, it’s hard but you can’t really get anywhere in life without putting in the hard work for it. And education opens up a lot of doors. It’s not easy but it opens up a lot of doors to, I mean, for a lot of people to escape where they came from. I know for me I’m a first generation college student. Neither of my parents graduated. Both of my parents work manual labor jobs and while there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s not the life I wanted to live. So because I was able to go to college, because of the opportunities given to me by education, I think that I can get a career that’s more lucrative and less demanding on my body thanks to being educated.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing teachers & education today?
Well, I think there are a lot of challenges but I think overall the biggest one is the education system itself. I think that the education system – it’s kind of clunky and outdated and in terms of when it was created, it’s a very old system. And so of course it is going to be updated as times change. Just the you stick a bunch of students in a room, you have one teacher who puts up stuff on the board, and talks to them and the students go home and do homework. That works for some students but a lot of them fall through the cracks. So I think the largest problem is that we have an education system that needs to be revamped, redesigned, and worked on.
And we also don’t have enough teachers and too many students so you can’t give students the one-on-one time that many of them need and you can’t personalize things for students. There’s just no money in the system. My mother works at a school. She’s a paraeducator and there’s no money in it. Being a good teacher is not a well-paying job and you’re constantly having to pay for things yourself if you want to do anything for your students because they don’t have any resources. And so that’s where I think tutoring comes into play. One of the reasons I do the tutoring is because it gives students the opportunities they need to have that one-on-one personalized teaching that really helps them out and makes them think “oh, I’m not dumb. I just couldn’t learn it that way.”
Cassidy: I also have experience. I’ve been a tutor for five years when I was in college and a little bit in my high school senior year and one of the amazing things that I’ve noticed when I was tutoring children was the fact that they all had different learning curves. It was a challenge for me but it was very stimulating that I got to find new ways to get them engaged. Like just seeing that light bulb click in them. It’s very creative for me every single day I go into work. And it’s always something different. I always try to find creative ways to help students understand that subject. It’s tough work and just knowing that teachers have to hold most of that weight in a classroom with twenty to thirty kids. It’s insane to me.
Matthew: The hard part is you have so many people that you can’t give personalized teaching to. In a perfect world we would have a one-to-one student teacher ratio or you could give personalized teaching to every student but you would need a lot of teachers.
Particularly in high school I had a one teacher I was very close with and I would go to his class after school, you know, just hang out with them. It wasn’t particularly professional on his end, but he would vent sometimes and I would kind of just sit there, listen, and chat with him. It’s not easy, even tutoring one-on-one is not easy. I couldn’t even imagine handling an entire classroom.
How do you build rapport with your students? Especially the ones who are a little bit shy or as not engaging.
The main way that I build rapport with my students is by treating them as equals. As more or less adults even though they’re not actually adults. Just by giving them the respect, not talking down to them, not acting like I’m better than them. I’m not trying to maintain an intense formal presence; sit back straight, no smiling, no jokes, no fun. Sometimes I won’t get very much teaching done during a tutoring session because time will be spent talking with them, chatting, telling jokes, try to be not exactly a friend because it is a professional relationship so you can’t be friends but you can be friendly. You can be open and once they’re comfortable around you and they see, “It’s just Matthew. I don’t need to be formal or uptight about it.” But when they see you as more of a friendly type, then sometimes you have to worry about keeping these students focused a little bit. I’ve had that problem before, especially when a student doesn’t want to do the work, they’re very good at distracting you. But when they’re more comfortable and friendly with you, that really helps build things and it really isn’t even if they’re not interested in the work. You can still talk with them. You can still get them to engage. You can tell jokes. I tend to tell a lot of jokes, kinda sarcastic and witty, that’s pretty popular especially with the middle school. But by treating them as equals instead of as a child or a student, I find that they respond really well to that.
Cassidy: I agree. I feel like in my experience, when you have that friendly demeanor about you, they feel more comfortable coming to you when they are feeling insecure about asking for help. Obviously, in getting tutoring help we are lacking something, in understanding a concept. A lot of people don’t wanna say, “I don’t know, this is not my subject, I don’t know.” They are too afraid to admit “I need help in this” and so building rapport and seeing your students grow confidence and be like, “You know what, I don’t know. But it doesn’t mean that I need to stay ignorant in this. I can try to learn some more. I can ask for help with this.”
Matthew I: One of my one of my favorite things to do is sometimes – I tutor primarily in math – I will be working through a problem and I will purposely make a mistake not like accidentally purposely where you accidentally made a mistake but you’re covering it. But I will actually purposely make a mistake and wait for them to catch me on it. They love it! And I think it really demonstrates that it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to not know. You’re not always going to be perfect. You can’t. You’re going to mess up and so when they see that even the tutor who knows everything is making mistakes then maybe it’s okay for them to make some as well.
Matthew I. is a tutor at My Private Professor, which provides individualized online & in-person tutoring to students in all subjects, including K-12 math, science, language arts, history, foreign language, AP exams, test prep, essays, & college counseling, by top tutors from top universities. www.myprivateprofessor.com