by Julia M. – tutor at Oxford Tutoring
She sat across from me, completely defeated. Tears slipping through the cracks of her calm demeanor.
When I first began tutoring her, she wanted to study the writing section of the ACT, and she wanted to study it at rapid speed. She is a visual learner, so once she viewed the standards of grammar she needed to know, it was imprinted in her memory, utilized easily when she answered questions. We whizzed through that section, my voice relaying information at the speed of an auctioneer just to keep up with her alert, competent mind.
Approaching the reading section I anticipated more of the same.
Yet, I quickly learned that she is a perfectionist. Hard on herself in school, sports, and life. She demands a lot of herself. I admire her work ethic and willingness to push herself in order to complete her goals, however, in this case, her high expectations were holding her back. She could not finish the reading section in a timely manner, while still maintaining respectable marks. The ACT is a test that requires students to think critically, move quickly, and work efficiently. In a desire to do well right away, she overwhelmed herself, not realizing that it takes time to build up the stamina and skill necessary to complete this task well.
It was my job to show her.
I spent much of the weekend thinking of a way to reach this sweet, intelligent girl. I wanted her to feel bolstered and help her to realize that with time, she would be able to master the reading passages. I had tried to explain this to her on our last session, but her emotional state made it impossible for her to process any new information. She was simply too entrenched by discouragement to hear me.
I needed to find the words to reach her.
Then, I remembered a few years back when I was going through a particularly difficult situation, disappointment encircled me in the same manner. A friend of mine was helping me through this challenge. I will never forget what she said to me as I sat across from her feeling defeated. She said, “Julia, we are going to get through this together.” We. She said we. That meant that I was not alone in my troubles. I had someone supporting me and with her help I would be able to make it through to the other side.
Remembering this pivotal moment, I realized that this is exactly what my student needed.
At our next tutoring session, I hoped that these same words would bring the comfort to my student that they had brought to me. Calling upon the student’s background as a gymnast, I asked how she knew when she was ready to attempt a new move. She explained that her coach served as her spotter, teaching a new technique and not letting go until the coach was certain her gymnast could handle the new move on her own.
After hearing her response, I looked at her and explained that, just like in gymnastics, the ACT required time and practice in order to be able to master it. And, I was going to be her spotter. We were going to work on the new techniques together, and I was not going to let go of her until I was positive she could handle the ACT on her own. I paused, trying to read her expression to see if I was getting through to her. Her mind was busy processing; she stayed silent.
“You know,” I added, “We are going to get through this together.” She breathed. Her shoulders relaxed. She sighed, relieved, “Okay, good!”
Ahead we moved, student and tutor together.
Meet the author: Julia M. is an ELA instructor at Oxford Tutoring who has been working with students for over 10 years. She builds up her student’s confidence in the subjects they struggle with through encouragement and support. Striving to make her students ready to tackle even the most difficult concepts as they move up in their education, she motivates her students to take their education into their own hands and thrive.