September 16, 2019

 Passing It On: The Life of a Tutor

By Contributing Author

A major emphasis in the Student Success Center is our peer tutoring program.  This week on our blog we are privileged to hear first-hand about that process.  Ashton Cheatham, one of our College of Pharmacy tutors talks about his own experience as a tutor: his basic approach, what he has learned as he taught, and how engagement with those he tutors has enriched his own life.

Teach It to Learn It

What if I told you that one of the best ways to receive encouragement for yourself was to encourage someone else? It seems paradoxical at first, but outward encouragement can be, as the common aphorism states, a rising tide that lifts all ships. The same principle applies with the conferment of knowledge, specifically in the form of tutoring. I am a firm believer that one of the best ways to learn something to the fullest extent is to teach it, and one of the best ways to strengthen your own knowledge is to pass it on to someone else.  Becoming a tutor allowed to me to practice that belief. As a tutor, I was placed in a position for my words to hold weight in someone else’s learning and to lead a student in the direction of a better understanding. Much prestige came with this opportunity, but along with it also came its own due pressure.

Be with the Person to Teach the Person

Before my very first tutoring session, my main objective was preparation. I figured that I needed to have all my ducks in a row in order to be the best tutor I could be. This meant re-studying material, coming up with mnemonics, creating supplemental graphics, etc. I remember thinking to myself, “I can never be too prepared. What if the student asks me a question that I don’t know the answer to? What if the way I explain the material only makes sense in my head? What if I go to the white board to write something and my dry-erase marker is…well…just dry?” I took a deep breath. I was making this situation too much about me. Sure, preparation was good, but I realized that I didn’t need to be perfect; I just needed to be present. I didn’t need to talk at the student; I needed to talk with the student and give them the benefits of a one-on-one encounter that are not available in a lecture hall. Now, with the right mindset, I too could learn, and the fruit thereof quickly started to show itself in my own academic well-being. I found myself revisiting certain subjects and observing them from a fresh, new perspective. Dots were being connected, and gaps were being filled.

Improve Another to Improve Myself

I liken tutoring to helping a student build a house. For certain topics, my house had already been built; I had already established a foundation and formed a primary structure that could then be added onto as I encountered more complex topics. For my students, however, it was possible that some of them did not that initial foundation, and I knew that without it, there could be no structure. In response, I was challenged to go back and see why I built my foundation the way I did, correct any faults or cracks, and then, through my instruction, move forward with my students to a state of stronger academic stability. Out of that stability came growth and expansion on all sides: the students’ grades started improving and they began to affirm me in my leadership and teaching abilities. Their encouragement strengthened my overall confidence, a much-needed reassurance as I became closer to entering a workforce waiting with its own expectations.

A Final Word

In short, if you desire to reinforce your knowledge base, you enjoy interacting with others, and you feel joy from pouring into people for the better, consider becoming a tutor. It is an all-around unique experience, and the benefits it offers surpass what words can describe. Not to mention, the wonderful staff at the Academic Success Center represent their department in excellence and are there to help tutors and students in the best way possible. They will provide you the necessary tools to start you on your way to becoming a successful tutor.

 

Contributing Author:  Ashton Cheatham, College of Pharmacy