As a tutor for Nurturing Wisdom, I’ve worked with a variety of students—all with varying needs. Learning to address those needs is one of my favorite things about my job.
I had one student, Ben*, whom I particularly enjoyed getting to know. Ben was an 8th grader who went to a very competitive middle school in Chicago. He was one of the most intelligent, hard-working students I’ve known.
When I first met him, he was spending hours studying and doing homework because he was terrified to get anything wrong. The night before a test, he would stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning, afraid he might forget a small detail if he didn’t study all night. (If he could have, he would have studied up until the very point of taking a test!) He didn’t have the confidence in himself to realize when his work was good enough or when he was adequately prepared.
While tutoring, Ben rarely needed my help with his classwork or to understand a concept. Rather, he needed someone to convince him that he was very intelligent and capable of succeeding without using energy drinks to stay up all night studying. He also needed to realize that making mistakes is part of the learning process.
Having my support throughout the year helped him to address his anxiety and build his confidence. When we first started working together, he would have emotional breakdowns if he missed one or two questions on a test. (To him, that was a poor performance.) To help him overcome this, I used our Mean Tutor approach. As a Mean Tutor, I would verbalize the negative thoughts in his head: I would sarcastically make a huge deal about missing one problem and how that one problem was going to surely wreck his future. Eventually, he found the whole thing hilarious and began to realize it was okay to make mistakes.
I never felt like I was tutoring Ben. Instead, I felt like I was on his team, tackling his assignments with him. And this was exactly what he needed. Academically, Ben did not need tutoring. But having my support and an extra set of eyes to confirm the quality of his always-flawless assignments helped him feel confident about his work.
*Not his real name