I do quite a bit of tutoring, so I thought I’d put together a few hints and tips for people seeking a tutor for the first time. Some of these may seem pretty obvious, but (in that case) you’d be pretty surprised how often they come up.
1. Read your course material
I know, I know. The course is incredibly dull, the professor is boring, and (to top it all off) it’s not quite coming together as easily as you hoped. Regardless of all that, if you’re going to pay someone to help you understand the material, you need to have read the material at least once. This isn’t about me (a tutor) being bored: this is about me being unable to help a student, because step one is to take just one pass over the material.
If you’ve read the material, and genuinely have no clue as to what’s going on: that’s fine. But paying someone to read the material to you seems, to me, to be a bit of a waste of cash. And yes, I’ve been in that situation more than once.
2. Email a copy of your material to your tutor
While it is the case that I have certain level of expertise in Philosophy, this does not mean that I have the details of every philosopher to hand. It’s in your interest to give your tutor an opportunity to prep before they meet up, so scan your textbook (if you don’t have an electronic copy of the text to hand already) and email it to them.
Note that this doesn’t mean just emailing them a list of topics: how things are explained is as important as what is explained, so email them a scan of your text book. Sure, this seems onerous, but it’s up to you how much time you want to spend helping to figure out what it is, exactly, that you don’t understand.
Otherwise you’re just paying them to sit and read your notes.
3. Bring your material with you when you meet your tutor
Even if you’ve read the material, and you’ve emailed an electronic version to your tutor, it’s in your interest to bring your original copy with you. There may be additional information, or the answer to your confusion may be found on a page that you didn’t send. While university texts are both heavy and expensive, if you want to get the most out of your tutoring, you should bring the textbook with you.
On a final note: there’s no such thing as “easy university credit”. I am regularly shocked by the students who come to me for help with Logic, who were told by friends of theirs that “it’s an easy course”, or they’ve done some googling and have decided that Philosophy is where they can coast.
Logic is allowed as an Math equivalent in many universities because it’s equivalent to first year math, and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something. Similarly, your typical Philosophy class requires 30-50 pages of reading a week (depending on the course), and will load you down with essays. Moreover, you’ll be expected to do analysis in your essays, not merely describe the theories of a long-dead white dude.
I say all of this for two reasons:
1. Oftentimes, just reading the material slowly and carefully will help students get through the course. You don’t need a tutor for that, and we’re not cheap.
2. I no longer take students who haven’t read the material. Sure, I get paid, but it’s still a complete waste of my time. I’m often faced with having to juggle a schedule, and when faced between a student who has read the material but is still struggling, vs. a student who hasn’t even read the material: I’m going to choose to help the student who will benefit the most (the one who has read the material).
Hopefully someone out there finds this useful.