International Baccalaureate Tutors Online – Reflections from a Biology and Chemistry Tutor
Tutoring is not just an occupation. Each tutoring experience is a journey I take with the student – a journey into their very personal educational path, which will most likely have a tremendous impact on their future.
First and foremost, tutoring is about helping students recognize their skills, develop them, accept their weaknesses, and tame them. And, because natural sciences are considered among the most demanding subject areas, proficiency in them often leads to a sense of accomplishment that boosts students’ self-confidence and starts a virtuous cycle: a cycle of progress, curiosity, and confidence. Here at Scientia, we tutors understand that students need vitality and curiosity. We encourage them to broaden their horizons and transpose what they are learning in a classroom to the outside world. There is a factor of trust in the student-tutor relationship that allows tutors to work hand-in-hand with the student towards their goals regardless of their starting point.
A few of my recent students’ stories come to mind:
Sandra came to Scientia for tutoring three months into IB Year 12.
Sandra wants to be a veterinarian and is taking Biology HL as well as Chemistry HL, which is a real challenge that demands organization and a sustained work rhythm. Overwhelmed by the never-ending pile of content to revise and homework to do, Sandra was only getting 2s on her Chemistry and Biology tests. Luckily, she did not lack the will to work, and that is all I needed from her. We first addressed her study skills. At the time, Sandra had no summaries and no clear and concise notes. She would go back to her textbooks every time she needed a piece of information, which was time-consuming and not efficient. For both Biology and Chemistry, we made a list of the concepts that need to be transferred to flashcards/tables/Venn diagrams. Soon enough, Sandra had a much better vision of the content she needs to know, and we could address the gaps in her knowledge in a much more effective and peaceful way. Following a comprehensive practice and homework schedule, I could see Sandra lift her head out of the water and take big unrestrained breaths. Three months later, Sandra could easily achieve 5s and 6s. The second part of our journey is now open to us. It is now time to practice, practice and practice enough so that she does not fear exams. It is time to learn to control anxiety and keep it at bay by focusing on each day’s work. It is tremendously satisfying to see Sandra gain more and more confidence, believe in her abilities and reach for that 7.
Vivian starts the IB next year.
She used to have a clear idea of the subjects she wanted to take. She used to love Chemistry and would get good grades in class. But Vivian’s family moved quite a bit, and Vivian changed schools and teachers a lot in the process. Lacking stability and having some negative experiences in class, Vivian came to Scientia for tutoring because her grades had plummeted. She did not want to take Chemistry in the IB anymore. Science had become an enemy. The challenge with Vivian was not explaining the content: she has a natural ability for science and could easily connect dots and get the bigger picture behind each concept once it was nicely presented. The challenge with Vivian was to remind her why she used to love Chemistry, remind her how she used to achieve good grades and re-ignite her curiosity. We worked on the chapters addressed in class, and I would innocently show her a cool application or a spectacular experiment every time. Although she was intent on not enjoying Chemistry, I could see the spark of curiosity winning her over, and she started asking questions. The more interested she got, the bigger her engagement grew. She did her homework without hesitation and revised on her own, coming to me with questions about the syllabus content and beyond. Subsequently, Vivian’s grades got better, and she is back to considering Chemistry for the IB.
These stories, among many others, are a good illustration of what tutoring entails for International Baccalaureate Tutors Online and offline. Students are different in their strengths, in their weaknesses, in their needs and in their personalities. Yet, they all share a common objective: get good grades, succeed in school, and prepare for the next part of their lives, the “real world”. We tutors also share a common objective: help students in their endeavors and to succeed – and to get them to enjoy the ride. I find a very special satisfaction in seeing pride in a student’s eyes. Pride in themselves, because they progressed, they learned and they grew.