Thursday, May 21, 2009


A grad student's stipend is famously thin, and there are many things I want to do in life which cost money. My solution to this is to supplement my income. I have two or three other places money comes in from. One is tutoring - it turns out that there is a high demand in the area for tutors in math and science from World's Best School. So I work for a tutoring company as a tutor, which in legal terms makes me an independent contractor.

I've been a tutor since I first started college in community college - it started as something to fill the dead time between classes, and morphed into something I really enjoy. My favorite subject to teach is definitely math. In fact, one semester I had a student pay his balance at the end of the term with a TI-89 calculator. I was thrilled (a true sign of a nerd) and happily upgraded my TI-83. Math always has right answers, so I feel much more confident teaching that than anything involving subjective opinions (essay writing - don't even get me started). In undergrad I also taught engineering subjects, which selfishly helped me solidify my own technical knowledge as well as the students'.

So it makes sense I'd continue the tradition in grad school. All of this semester I have been working two hours a week in walk-in tutoring. High school students come in and ask questions on their homework - there are a couple other tutors who work there on English and science, and I cover the math questions. This gives me "beer money" as they say in college, and provides me an interesting diversion and a really satisfying feeling of helping someone get to that ah-ha moment. My favorite thing is when my students, most of whom come back to me each week, will tell me: "That makes so much more sense than how my teacher explained it!" Sometimes it just takes a different perspective to make things clear, a second way of explaining.

I have just picked up a new tutoree who would like some help preparing for the GRE exam. This is going to be a new thing for me in two ways - I've never tutored specifically for the GRE exam before, and this is the first student who is paying for premium service. This means that instead of my normal "I'm here to help you for an hour with whatever questions you have" I am expected to say "Here's a lesson plan and a syllabus for the summer, here's a lecture to help you understand, and here's homework to have for me next week." These lesson plans and lectures take some preparation time, and the student has a higher expectation from me.

But I'm looking forward to it. My student seems motivated (he has to be, in order to want to study over the summer...), and at the end of all this I'll have lesson plans ready for any other student on this subject in the future.

Pencils ready! Begin!

1 comment:

  1. I tutored at the MLRC all through undergrad and loved it! It was a great diversion from all the ambiguity of the social sciences. I actually really miss it. I have been teaching my own classes at OSU the past 3 semesters, but it isn't the same. I am thinking of tutoring during my year off before starting my Ph.D.