Who Tutors Are and How to Be One

Most A-LEC tutors are SMU undergraduates who are very strong academically, at least in the areas they tutor, and who are also talented at communicating with the wide variety of students who come to us for help. A smaller number of SMU graduate students also work as A-LEC tutors. All tutors should have been enrolled at SMU at least a year.

The kind of tutoring we do makes considerable demands on the tutor's abilities. First, the tutor must be strong enough academically to help even a strong student to get better. It's not enough to have passed Organic Chemistry: you must be able to help a student now in Organic to raise an A- to an A. (So, you need to actually know what a Grignard reaction is, not just remember that you once knew it for a test.) But academic strength alone is not enough. The tutor's role is not to be a question-answerer, but to be someone who can help students think through new material for themselves; for this, the tutor needs much stronger communication skills, plus a plentiful dose of general good sense.

There is an interesting "flip side" to these requirements. Students who are strong in these ways find that A-LEC tutoring develops their strengths in ways quite different from, say, making an A in a course. They end up with a much deeper understanding of the material they tutor. Also, as they respond day after day to the challenge of articulating their subject area to a very wide range of people, they develop a set of industrial-strength communication skills that will serve them for years to come. (As one former pre-med tutor, now a practicing physician, put it: "I learned my 'bedside manner' at the A-LEC.")

If you are a student who would like us to consider you as a tutor, please contact Adreana Julander. We'll take it from there. We would also like to hear from faculty members who want to recommend a student to us—and from undergraduates who want us to know that the EE major who lives three rooms down from them is already helping everybody on the floor with calculus. Give us a call and we'll take it from there.