Throughout my work as a tutor in a university, I have gained a whole new perspective to studying at university that I would like to share with you. It’s not often you can get advice straight from university tutors, though Phil Stubbs, Academic Jungle and Female Science Professor are helping to lift the veil. Here I share my top 10 things your university tutor won’t tell you.
A couple of notes: this is based on my experience and those of my colleagues at an Australian university. I would be interested to learn of your different experiences, so please leave a comment to let me know.
Now, here are my top 10 things that your university tutor won’t tell you:
- We can help you with more than just this course. As staff, we have a wealth of knowledge about the university itself and other courses. I can often give advice on how to borrow books, the club to join to help with your English skills, which university societies are good to join, where the quiet study areas are, or the best place to park. Just don’t ask me where building Z10 is because I still use a map to find my way around (it’s only been 2 years at this campus!).
- We can give extensions. We can often grant extensions to students if you send us an email. Too often students might not be able to make a class to hand in a piece of assessment, and they do not contact me. If only they had sent me an email before that day, I would have the power to grant an extension of a day or two without all the paperwork of a formal application. You will need a (fairly) good reason though – going on holiday just doesn’t cut it.
- If you’re not sure where to turn, come to us. Sometimes it can be hard to know exactly where to go and who to talk to in a big place like a university. Even finding that information on the school website can be tough. Instead, use our experience and ask us! Where do you buy your parking permit? What is the policy on graduation? When will results be published? Is there a free counseling service for students? Where can you buy second-hand textbooks? Your tutor can help you out with all of this, and more.
- Most of us are still studying ourselves.You will find that most tutors are Master or PhD students themselves and this is because tutoring is a great part time job and it helps us to immerse ourselves in the content we know. It also means that we can easily relate to you as students, and we know what you’re going through.
- We don’t receive training on HOW to teach. I’m not sure if my university is alone in not providing teaching education, but my induction covered health and safety, student equity issues and course administration. The rest is left up to us to learn on the job. This is something that I am currently trying to rectify at my university, but for the most part we try to emulate what our favourite tutors did when we were students. I also try to find tips online for what worked for other teachers, but please cut us a bit of slack if we get it wrong sometimes.
- You probably know more than us about what is covered in lectures. Though we do have a wealth of knowledge on the subject we teach (as noted above, a lot are studying for a PhD), we don’t go to the lectures for the courses we teach. If you ask me a question such as “What did the lecturer mean when they said …” or “What did I miss at the end of the lecture?” you will likely get a blank stare back. We often do a quick review of the lecture Powerpoint before class, but apart from that, we don’t really know what happened in the lecture.
- We don’t get paid extra to answer emails outside of tutorial times. Tutors in Australia are paid by the hour, and expected to be available to student inquiries all hours. I personally love my job, and encourage students to email me when they have questions. I generally promise a 24 hour turnaround on emails (weekends are the exception), but if I am going away for a couple of days and don’t answer your email straight away, please understand.
- We are not full time staff. With a few exceptions, most tutors (at least at my university) are employed casually on a semester-by-semester basis. That means that we are not at campus every day of the week and we really don’t get paid as much as you think we do.
- We rely on good evaluations.The end of semester evaluations are a very important time for us tutors, which is why we will often repeatedly remind you to answer them. Good evaluations from our students can help us be re-employed to teach next semester. They are always anonymous and you usually get rewards to answer them, so please go ahead!
- Nobody ever comes to student consultation time. All tutors must put aside at least one hour each week to be available for one-on-one student consultations. I can tell you from personal experience that most of us sit in our office on Facebook or try to find something productive to do. I would twiddle my thumbs but I still haven’t worked out how to twiddle yet. Please use this time to chat one-on-one with your tutor about ANYTHING you want. Come to see us if you want to talk about your grades, how to do the assignment, if you need advice on your studies, how to study for the exam, if you want extra assistance, you want us to clarify or explain anything that was in a lecture or you just want a chat. This is your best chance to chat to us without any time restrictions.
There you have it, the insider goss on what we as tutors know. Feel free to add your experiences below or ask a question.
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