Peer tutors offer students additional help

By Alyssa Eby

The word tutor tends to have a negative connotation attached to it. Students know it implies they are struggling and it is often frowned upon by peers.

“In high school I never would have even considered going to a tutor for help,” said freshman Jennie Matteson. “But the chemistry tutors have helped me so much this year already.”

Bluffton University employs students as tutors in a subject within their major. Each tutor is assigned a time slot and is available within in those times to assist students struggling on homework or class assignments in the specific subject.

Junior Megan Good, an English and writing major, is a tutor in the writing center.

“Writing is something I’m really passionate about,” said Good. “So being able to help someone, whether it’s a paper or some creative writing project they’re working on, is a real joy for me.”

Chris Wagler is a triple major in accounting, business administration and exercise science and has been employed as an accounting tutor on campus for four years. As a tutor, he appreciates the opportunity to assist in his fellow students in their learning as well as the chance to build relationships.

“My favorite aspect of being a tutor is helping a student understand the subject in terms [they] understand,” Wagler said. “Sometimes the teacher and student fail to connect and this is where I come in.”

Students have the opportunity to visit a tutor in their needed subject or department almost any night of the week. During the first week of classes, professors inform their students of the hours of tutors available for the class and often remind students of the additional resource.

“On average, about five students visit me each night I tutor, but the number varies depending on when assignments are due,” said Dean Walters, a biology and pre-med double major and chemistry tutor. “A tutor can often provide a wide range of knowledge and they are usually able to explain something in a way that is understandable to you.”

“About three students seek help in the writing center during the times I’m working,” Good said. “Just seeking out help is beneficial because after the first time they’ve opened the door to the thought and are more likely to come back a second and even third time.”

Freshman Shelby Konig was hesitant to visit a tutor for help on accounting homework.

“It’s nerve-racking walking in the first time and asking for help,” said Konig, “But Chris really helped me with understanding and completing the difficult homework. I’ll definitely be back.”

In high school visiting a tutor is frequently viewed as a sign of weakness. In college, though, it can be the reason a student passes a class.

“In high school whenever a teacher mentioned that there is a tutor it was always taken as a joke and that you were [dumb] if you needed a tutor,” Walters said. “Whereas in college if someone says they are going to a tutor for math, accounting or chemistry help, you immediately are under the impressions that they are smart and definitely know what they are talking about.”

Professors often encourage struggling students to visit tutors for out of the classroom assistance, and the tutors agree.

“A tutor can help you understand your problems from a peer perspective, said Wagler. “A teacher has about 40 kids in a classroom so it may be hard for them to reach each student. A tutor can fill in those gaps.”

Good pointed out the importance of speaking with a professor about struggling first and how tutoring should be an additional learning, not their core source of learning

“Tutors can only help you so much. There are things even we are not sure of,” Good said. “I think students should definitely take advantage of the tutors they have, but tutors shouldn’t be a substitute for the professor. The two resources should be used together for maximum benefit.”

These tutors are a major asset available to Bluffton students. Each department has their own times and locations, which can be obtained by talking to a professor.

“My favorite part about being a tutor is being able to help students who need a little extra guidance because I was once in their shoes,” Walters said. “Visiting a tutor is a sign of an eager student, not stupidity.”

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