The Tutor period

My first paid tutoring session in a long time was tonight.  My student said that an hour with me helped her more than 5 hours with her GSI.  That’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, as her GSI probably didn’t devote his/her full attention to her.

Firstly, it’s nice to do a good job.  It’s also nice to have something teaching-related on my resume rather than an empty space while I look for a job.  It’s also nice to be paid so I don’t go homeless.

Secondly, Danny is ambivalent, leaning toward antagonistic, about paid tutoring.  I can see the point: the people who make their living as tutors have an incentive to make their students dependent on them.  They want to be useful enough to satisfy the customer, but not so useful that the student can afford to be without their services.  Meanwhile a good teacher will cultivate students to the point that they become independent thinkers.  This is what I aim for when tutoring as well, like I do in office hours, although it means putting myself out of a job.

Within the education ecology, from the students’ perspective, tutors are symbiotic: students learn more (or at least get better grades), and the tutors get paid.  As Danny points out, this exacerbates the inequality gap because it means students (or parents) with more resources can buy a better education.  From the teachers’ perspective, tutors can be parasitical: reinforcing bad student behavior (especially students who just want the answers, so the tutoring is basically cheating) while taking the students’ money.  On the other hand, some schools use in-house tutors with struggling students so they can keep up with the class, which helps the tutoree, the teacher, and the class as a whole.  The difference is that a tutor with a stake in the school has a different objective than a for-profit tutor: the former sympathetic, the latter antagonistic.

Anyway, hopefully I’ll soon leave this for a less ambiguous position within the education ecology.

As an aside, I think the relationship of the testing services to the education system has moved from symbiotic to parasitic.  I don’t think the constant testing has much value.  The country is addicted to the standardized exams to the point that it has warped the national dialogue on education around it like a large gravity well.  Meanwhile, testing companies make money hand over fist on tests and prep materials and has given rise to a whole test prep industry.  If I ever gain power within a higher education department, I’m going to campaign for eliminating the SAT/ACT/GRE requirement.  Load of tosh.

In other news, a lady in Albany contacted me in regards to tutoring her kid.  Who goes to school at UCLA.  1) Who looks for a tutor 400 miles away from the student?  2) Why can’t a college student find her own tutor?  My guess is this is an azian parent interfering with her daughter’s life/education because her grades aren’t high enough.


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