Every tutoring session with a student is different. I love the ability to adapt my lessons to meet each student’s needs and interests. I may constantly recycle certain analogies and explanations. (Just ask any of the hundreds of students I’ve worked with over the years how often I use examples about sandwiches when explaining grammar. The answer is likely the word “often,” followed by a sigh.) However, it always feels fresh and particular to explain concepts and methods to a new student.
When I started online tutoring, as opposed to tutoring in person, I had some trepidation. How would it work if I weren’t in the same room? Would kids pay attention? Read attentively? Appreciate my sandwich analogies?
I was delighted to find my style needed few adaptations. Sitting at the same table or sitting in rooms thousands of miles apart connected by video chat, it turns out, have few differences. I make students read out loud to gauge their understanding. I ask questions constantly, prompting them to think on their own. I teach methods, content, and ways to think about a question. I find that being able to watch these students carefully on my computer screen yields benefits. I can notice waning attention and minimize distractions. I can time pacing and guide thinking.
Really, the only thing I cannot do online that I do in person is physically cover a student’s multiple choice answers with my hands to chide her or him into thinking of an answer first. Otherwise, I can see if she or he is doing that method with the document camera, which is valuable as the student is alone on test day. I can hear answers, explain them, and elucidate concepts just as easily online. I secretly love watching my students as they read, think, and scratch out answers. I can see those brows furrow – smiles spread – or gasps escape agape mouths. And I can do that even more easily when a student takes up my computer screen.
Just as on test day, the real result is how many bubbles are filled in correctly. And those bubbles come from mental effort, which can happen anywhere on the globe. My voice, experience, and techniques work in just about any time zone.