Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure #41: Everyday I’m Tutoring, Tutoring

Even though tutoring is an ordinary part of many people’s education, the word “tutor” still conjures up a 19th century Ichabod Crane type schoolmaster in my mind. It also always makes me think of this comic which my friend Christina’s family has a long-running joke about.


I enjoy tutoring because unlike most classroom teaching I have the opportunity to work one-on-one with students and can try more than one method of explaining something until the student understands. The thing that makes tutoring an adventure for me is that I rarely know ahead of time what assignments the student will bring to work on together, but it’s my job to be competent to help them with whatever they’ve been assigned. This sometimes means a quick Google refresher coupled with liberal use of the Socratic method (“What do you think it means, Johnny?”) and a healthy dash of BS. I will admit that I’m amazed sometimes when some long-forgotten tidbit of knowledge pops into my head while tutoring and I realize those long hard days of elementary school really paid off.

In a given week of tutoring here are all of the things I need to have mastery of:

  • The basics of how the digestive system works.
  • What are xylem and phloem?
  • How to explain exponents to a fifth-grader.
  • How to make a 7th grade boy answer questions in complete sentences. (I’ve determined that it’s basically impossible).
  • How to master the  Reading Comprehension section of the ACT in the allotted 40 minutes. (How exactly do you make a student read faster? Besides making them read a bunch of things on a timer?)
  • How to use “credence” in a sentence and how to explain that for some reason, we only ever use this word in the phrase “give/gave credence to.”
  • How to write compelling personal essays for college applications without putting my words in someone else’s “mouth.”
  • What happened in Tom Sawyer? All I remember is the part where he paints the fence. Also when he and Becky Thatcher get lost in the cave at Becky’s picnic. Thanks a lot, Wishbone.

I’ve realized that tutoring is similar to substitute teaching in that you can’t get by with mastery of a single subject or grade level. Tutoring is also unique in that, if you’re doing it right, you should really be working yourself out of a job. Which is good for them and bad for you. So the key is getting your students to improve enough that their parents think the tutoring is working without making them think the tutoring isn’t necessary anymore. (Just kidding, just kidding. For the record, my goal is definitely to have the students improve to the point that they don’t need me).

Things in Columbia continue to be strange and disjointed in the aftermath of the Great Flood. Parts of roads are still closed and many houses have to be knocked to the ground and rebuilt from scratch. Driving through neighborhoods there are mountains of debris in the yards from houses being completely gutted. It will take this city months to years to fully recover. The flooding has put a damper on both our adventures and on my job search progress as things here ground to a halt for an entire week. But this coming weekend we have a day trip planned to Wilmington, a beach town in North Carolina where one of my dear friends lives. We are looking forward to getting out and trying some new things in Wilmington and I will hopefully have a more interesting adventure to report back next week!

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about the 1,000 Year Flood, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.


  1. Reading faster comes down to eye movement discipline, doesn’t it? I think the term is saccades? So if you can get them to move their eye in little frog hops across the page, they read faster. Not that it helps you. But have fun on your next adventure!


    1. Interesting. I’m also a relatively slow reader even though I read a ton. Part of the problem for me is that if I don’t articulate each word in my mind individually, I lose a lot of comprehension. I have a habit of moving my lips while reading, basically mouthing every word, when I’m very involved in a story. When I do this I am essentially reading at the same pace I would be if I were reading aloud. I can force myself not to do this and read without moving my lips, but I find myself more easily distracted by what’s going on around me and my comprehension suffers. Not sure why that is and it doesn’t have anything to do with tutoring, but there you have it! 🙂


  2. HI, The tutoring sound like fun, but intensive. Actually I just finished tutoring an interior design student on her thesis 😉

    some ideas to get kids to read faster :
    – try let kid read books actually to easy or comics (where visuals support the reading), or
    – you can try let kid reading the same text more than one time, Or
    – you may try using an i-pad (kindle) instead of a book to ajust color/letter size,
    – try using an audiobook beside the book, where the kid has to read faster than the spoken word



    1. Thank you so much for these tips! In this case, I’m working with a student who is preparing for a specific standardized college entrance exam so I’m trying to have her practice with a similar format to the test. These ideas are great for younger learners or for a less specific exercise and I will add them to my arsenal of tutoring weapons. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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