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You’re smart. You’re one step ahead of the teacher, and ten steps ahead of your lab partner. You’ve got the formulas down, you aced that pop quiz, and the teacher beamed with pride when she handed back your essay. The only thing you struggle with in class is staying interested. You might be thinking, Hey, I’ve arrived; nothing left to do. You might say to yourself, Good work, self, now we just kick back and sail straight into an Ivy League, leaving a trail of high scores and accolades behind us. Stop saying that now. Don’t get cocky--it’s a trap. Even the smart kids can fall behind. Remember the Ant and the Grasshopper? The Tortoise and the Hare? The point is it’s a whole lot easier to fall behind than it is to catch up. So how do you stay on your game and make this high school thing a bit more interesting? Okay, here it comes... Tutoring. No, don’t hire a tutor, become one. Tutor your, ahem, academically-challenged friends or see if you can find some underclassmen that want a leg up. Then tackle the ultimate challenge: scan the room for that stupidly hot airhead--you know the one--and make your move. Don’t be afraid--they’re in no position to turn down free help. This isn’t the quad it’s the classroom. In here, they’re floundering and you’re king. Wait until a particularly dizzying lecture, then ask them to study with you. You’ll catch them off guard and before they know what hit them, you’ll be spending intimate after-school hours bent over the same textbook. Before your fantasy gets out of control: NO, they will not date you. They will not fall helplessly in love the second you take off your glasses or let your hair cascade from an uptight bun. You will, however, learn something better: hot kids are people too. They’re not scary. In fact, they’re probably just as intimidated by you as you are by them. Most importantly, you’ll be mastering geometry, memorizing Civil War generals’ names, and getting an edge on your nerdy competition. Bet they didn’t think of this. Plus, cramming with someone else will keep you from procrastinating and break up the monotony of solo study sessions.
Teaching forces you to put what you already understand into words that someone else can understand. You end up understanding it in a whole new way, reinforcing your knowledge. Learning is exciting again! Your neurons will be firing away, leaving lasting brain wrinkles that won’t unwrinkle for years to come. And yes, you will need long division in the real world. You’ll also need chemistry and literary theory when you’re thrown into the big collegiate pond. There’s no time for review when you’re busy triplemajoring in Music, Physics, and Poli Sci. Ready to get started? We’ve outlined 4 simple steps to becoming a stellar tutor. 1. Identify your expertise. You can’t be the best at everything, right? What subjects do you know inside and out? Another way to answer this question is to think about what subjects truly excite you. If you can teach biology without a textbook open, consider it an expertise. If you’ve kept your own detailed notes on the themes and motifs in Catcher in the Rye, tutor away! 2. Know what the teacher expects. That hot kid didn’t sign up for tutoring just so they could listen to you nerd out about your pet interests. They’re here because they want a passing grade on the midterm. Your job is to prepare them for the questions that will come up in class. Look at that week’s homework--or a syllabus if they didn’t throw it out--and let it guide you. Or straight up ask the teacher what you should focus on--they’ll be thrilled that you care. 3. Organize, Organize, Organize. Say it out loud. Get a binder or notebook and track what you’ve studied, especially if you wind up tutoring more than one peer (lucky you!). You’ll want to review the concepts you’ve already covered to make sure they stick. You’ll also want to point out how far your star tutee has come. You know, when they’re blaming you for still bringing home a D. 4. Listen. The best teachers let their students guide the learning. That may sound like the stuff of motivational assemblies, but it’s a basic pedagogical principle. Look that up later. Ask that bronzed god/dess what they’re struggling with. If you can show you’re listening, and that you’re not going to laugh behind their back, they’ll be honest. And the best part is, they’ve just done half your job for you. You can prove how valuable you are by providing precisely the help they need. Finally, keep in mind a few Do’s and Don’ts:
Don’t be boring. Make them want to come back for more. Do talk about more than just school. This is your chance to brush up on your non-existent social skills, remember? Don’t be patronizing. They may be stupid, but they’ll spot it a mile away. Do be confident. Remember the first thing we said? You’re smart. You have something to offer. Chicks dig confidence and guys find it disarming. Congratulations, you’re well on your way to a successful unpaid tutoring career! You got this.