Discussion Thread

  • 1.  Tutoring Experience

    Posted 01-24-2022 07:43 PM
    As we think about developing the next generation of engineers (and society in general), I was wondering if anyone has any personal experience with tutoring they'd like to share.

    Here are some questions to spark your feedback. Feel free to answer as many or as few as are applicable to your experience!
    • Have you participated in tutoring students?
    • What inspired you to become a tutor?
    • In what ways has tutoring been rewarding to you personally?
    • Did someone tutoring you make an impact on your education?

    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK

  • 2.  RE: Tutoring Experience

    Posted 01-25-2022 02:59 PM
    I have done a fair amount of tutoring over the years, and I have always found it to be very satisfying!  In high school I helped some of my friends in their math classes and I tutored a couple of elementary school kids (mainly just helping them to get through their homework each night to give the parent's a break).  Then, in college I tutored a variety of courses after I took them (chemistry, calculus, differential equations, statics, fluids, etc.).  After college I had a break for a few months before starting my first job, so I took a part-time tutoring position at a facility where I tutored elementary through high school students in all math subjects as well as ACT and SAT prep.  I now help out with a local after school program that aids underprivileged kids to improve their education as well as their interest in learning.

    I think what inspired me initially, and continues to inspire me to tutor is the satisfaction that comes from helping someone to understand something that I understand.  I really enjoy seeing people succeed and learn to do something that is difficult for them.  I think this is a big part of why I find it so rewarding, but I think it is also a bit of a personal challenge for myself.  At times, I am often forced to look at the problem/situation/etc. in a different manner than readily makes sense to me.  Since everyone's brain works differently, a solution to a problem may make perfect sense to one person when explained one way, but a different person may need it explained a different way in order to understand it.  This really challenges me to look at the concepts in multiple different ways in order to best explain it to the individual I am working with.  Also, often times the topics that I tutored I had/still have to remind myself how to do before I can explain it to the student.  I enjoy this because it forces me to continually use and recall the knowledge that I gained over the years of my education.

    One other tidbit I would like to add is that with all the tutoring I have done and really enjoyed I have thought about if I would be better fit to be a teacher then an engineer, but I've learned over the years that teaching is very different from tutoring.  I've been in a classroom a few times and found that I really don't like being in front of a class.  I much prefer to work one-on-one or with just a few students at a time so that I have the opportunity to ensure that those individuals understand what we are working on.

    Nancy Simpson EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Muscatine Power & Water
    Muscatine IA

  • 3.  RE: Tutoring Experience

    Posted 01-25-2022 04:17 PM
    I really resonate with a lot of what you shared, Nancy! 

    This part especially is stood out to me since I share those feelings:
    "I think what inspired me initially, and continues to inspire me to tutor is the satisfaction that comes from helping someone to understand something that I understand.  I really enjoy seeing people succeed and learn to do something that is difficult for them."

    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK

  • 4.  RE: Tutoring Experience

    Posted 01-25-2022 05:16 PM
    First tutoring experience:
    My first official tutoring experience was when I was a senior in high school. For a project in my senior English class we had to come up with a community service project to complete and then write about. I decided that I wanted to tutor an elementary school student from a Spanish-speaking household that needed help in Reading. I had maxed out my Spanish course options at the high school level, so one factor was having the opportunity to use Spanish in my volunteer activity. The other big motivator for me was that I remembered seeing students that started to fall behind in reading around 3rd grade that never fully recovered. From that point on, they struggled with every subject since you had to be able to read and comprehend the class materials to do well. It broke my heart to see students become disheartened and give up in school. I decided if I could help just one student that was struggling in reading that it could make a lasting impact.

    I was paired with the sweetest little second grader at a local elementary school. Every Friday after the high school students were dismissed I went to her school and we worked for an hour or two after she got out of class. When we first started together she was timid and didn't think she was capable of doing well since she was behind.  At one point near the beginning when she was discouraged by how much help she needed, I asked if I could read her a Clifford the Big Red Dog book in Spanish. Her face lit up as she said, "I didn't know Clifford knowed Spanish!" The next week as I was reading to her, she loved that she got to help with with what a few words meant. I could tell that it made her feel better about when she needed help.

    As she started to catch up to her classmates, she also gained confidence. I'll never forget the week she came out of the room and told me she got her first B on a spelling test. She said she used to think that maybe she was just dumb, but maybe she just needed a little help. I started crying and she said, "oh... are you sad I didn't get an A?" I immediately told her how proud I was of how she was improving and that I was so happy that she got a B. By the end of the year, she was reading just above grade level and was able to read and understand the directions on her homework without help.

    Recent tutoring experience:
    In several cities across the United States including Tulsa, Oklahoma there is a program called Reading Partners. The program uses an in-house curriculum with kids in early elementary school to improve their reading skills. I have volunteered with Reading Partners for three years. For one hour each week I work with a student going through the curriculum together. I've had a second grader, a first grader, and a kindergartener. There's just something incredible about seeing things click for each of them as new concepts started to make sense. It is also cool to see the impact that it has when they realize there is a grownup that isn't their teacher or guardian who cares about them and is invested in their education. At the end of the year, we go back and reread the first little book they read at the beginning of the year. It is so cute to hear them say things like "I used to think that was hard?? But it's easy now!"

    The impact on me:
    Tutoring young students definitely impacts me. I get to share in the excitement as they understand more and more. I get to play a part in making them excited about learning which I find fulfilling. I get the satisfaction of walking them through the basic concepts that will serve as the foundation for whatever they study and practice in the future. On weeks where my engineering projects are wearing me out, that one hour break to work with my student refills my tank. 

    A silly thing I also take away is a weekly quote from my students. When I get back to the office my coworkers ask me what the weekly quote is. There's almost always at least one when you're spending time with a 5-9 year old.

    Here are a few kids quotes that always make me smile:
    During our lesson my first grader said "Miss Heidi, you have TWO jobs. One is a engineer and one is being my Readin' Partner"
    I said, "That's right. Do you know what I really really love getting to do?"
    A grin spread across her face as she said "Readin' with me..."
    "You are so right"

    me: "So how do we read this?" Sam Sat.
    my kindergartener: "Sam sat."
    "Right! And how do we read this?" Sam sat!
    "Sam... Sit. Yo. Butt. Down!"  (He even used his grown up voice impression and it was fantastic.)

    "What has been the best thing about today so far?"
    *shifty glances as he pulls his uniform shirt up in the front*
    "That I got this sweet Ninja Turtles shirt on under here... Shhhh"

    "My listening ears are dying, no, they're dead. Like, maybe they need new batteries or somethin" - my 2nd grader who did not wear hearing aides

    "W! That's in my name" - me
    *kindergarten buddy raised an eyebrow* "There ain't no w in HEIDI."
    "It's in my last name. Wuh-wuh- Wallace"
    *takes a deeeep breath through his nose in my direction* "You ain't smell like no Wallace."
    "What is a Wallace supposed to smell like?!"
    "Hmmmm... Oh, like a Heidi I guess."

    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK

  • 5.  RE: Tutoring Experience

    Posted 01-26-2022 09:49 AM
    Heidi, I love what you said about your tutoring refilling your tank when your engineering work is wearing you out!  I've taken a break from the after school program that I helped out with due to COVID and then to study for my PE, and I am so excited to go back to it next month because of how much it energizes me to be there.

    Nancy Simpson EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Muscatine Power & Water
    Muscatine IA

  • 6.  RE: Tutoring Experience

    Posted 07-17-2022 04:03 PM
    This is a late reply, but from September 2013 to April 2016, I spent 100 service hours tutoring middle school students in Geometry and Algebra.

    Back then, I was a student at Metro Early College High School, and needed to work for service hours throughout my years there. During my last two years, I realized I could walk over to the middle school side and a math class full of younger students that needed help with their classes. I chose to focus on math classes, because I was one of a few students who managed to advance a grade in math years earlier.

    Amidst all of the volunteering I have done over the years, tutoring the middle school students felt the most connected to the people I was giving to. Although I had been a community service worker for a couple weeks during those years, the tutoring was with people I kept coming back to time after time. I was helping them with their classes, and making sure each individual student was figuring out how to understand and continue the math problems on their own. To that end, tutoring could lead to teaching down the line at some point ...

    Alexander Granato A.M.ASCE
    Bexley OH

  • 7.  RE: Tutoring Experience

    Posted 08-03-2022 03:19 PM
    I had an amazing 7th through 9th grade teacher (Mr. Last) who really taught me the fundamentals of mathematics and thus sparked my interest in math, physics, and engineering.
    I tutored several times over the past few years. and when I tutor I hope that I can help a person understand and enjoy math and perhaps spark an interest in the STEM field for them. 

    I most enjoy it when the person I'm tutoring asks "but why do we need to know how to find the angle of a shape or why do we need to know the area of a circle...?" I can now delve lightly into a real-world example or give an engineering example.
    I find that people tend to understand math better when there are real-world cases attached to them.

    Daniel Bressler EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    Brooklyn NY

  • 8.  RE: Tutoring Experience

    Posted 08-05-2022 10:39 AM
    In grad school, I worked during the summers to teach grade school and high school students different lab experiments. Things like bottle rocket design and bridge design stand out the most. It was fun, it forced me to practice public speaking, and a lot of the kids were a blast to teach. They had a lot of enthusiasm and most of them seemed like they actually wanted to be there even though they had to get up early during the summer for it.

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer