The need for tutoring seems to be consistently high. The pandemic has not only torn gaps in social contacts, but also left gaps in school supplies. To answer the question of how and why you as a student benefit from demand, I took a closer look at my own part-time work as a tutor.
Much missed and little learned – one way or another, the effect of the last two years on school education could be summed up. Whether this assessment is true remains to be seen, all that remains is a cry for help from many affected. So first the basics: What is the second most popular student job (after bike courier job) about? Why is tutoring still in demand today? What do students miss?
The range of answers to this question is very large and you can quickly see it from small examples: Some children are not encouraged enough because their parents work a lot. Others find it difficult to navigate large classes, and others learn more slowly and require more time on the same material, or learn faster and lack of challenge leads to boredom.
In the same way, the claim to youth in the modern spirit of the times is almost an insult to the individual: one should be successful as quickly and directly as possible, but at the same time adapt as flexibly as possible to the globalized world.
The way of imparting knowledge is also changing, and unfortunately not always for the better: The amount of material is getting denser and at the same time the time for meaningful processing is decreasing. The rigid boundaries between different levels of schools are softening. While this can be a positive development, it also makes the level of knowledge of students in the classrooms more diverse. The declining level of performance then has to be compensated by the teachers laboriously and then there is the Kafkaesque-looking bureaucratization of the school.
Thus, “education gaps” are the product of many small components. How can I, as a teacher, pick up very different people in a rigid education system? How do I find a template that works for everyone?
Personalized one-on-one lessons as a (seeming) savior
So far I have mainly taught physics and mathematics as a private tutor. At all school levels and grades – from (potentially) very good to rather unsatisfactory students – I often noticed the same difficulties: Students mentally slow down, “I’m just bad at math” (unfortunately, in my own experience, this affects, women are more likely ), or think the “new topic” is too abstract.
I firmly believe that everyone, without exception, is capable of understanding far more than their own self-respect allows. Encouraging students here is not only helpful but also sincere. Moreover, it was often “just” because of banalities: fractions and algebra (“rearranging equations”). I can’t stress this point enough because it usually goes to the heart of the matter and is completely fixable.
This creates a very sobering experience for me: the student is looking for contact and wants to understand the «derivative» of a function, so I start explaining the basic ideas until we can do the exercises together. Then, if you pay attention to the subtext of innocuous questions like “How did you get from line 2 to line 3?”, you’ll quickly discover that the question is actually quite different: “How do I rearrange this fraction to get the new expression receive?”. At this point I often have to take a deep breath and answer, “Do you know the rule?”
I often see this “glow” in my eyes once you’ve played and practiced a handful of rules. A very strange moment when concepts suddenly come together and people start throwing out old issues and the smoke screen goes out completely. Suddenly, even students with unsatisfactory grades enjoy the subject. When people can finally use a hammer, everything is a nail at first, but it can be so beautiful hammer.
For me, it is not only a didactic exercise, it is also a test of my knowledge. Of course, you can arm yourself with technical terms in an oral exam and keep up with the professors in a verbal boxing match, but if I really understood it as a student, it’s not set in stone yet.
In conversations with pupils and (younger) students, a new context is created, you hone your own knowledge, learn to convey it and also be able to abstract into new areas. This will not only give you more “soft skills” (nonsense in modern times) but also fill in your own educational gaps. Because a mere collection of facts is not education, thoughts and ideas about the world are not static, but develop dynamically in the play of personal experience, the zeitgeist and a few “certainties”. Or to put it more bluntly:
“Education is what’s left when you forget everything you’ve learned.”
– Werner Heisenberg