Russell Thomson, a tutor at Maurice Tobin K-8 School program, is a senior at Boston University majoring in biomedical engineering (“As a kid I loved reading sci-fi so I figured this was my best chance to bio-engineer dragons,” he says). Though he’s only been with us a short period of time, he has already formed a tight bond with his student, Geo. He talked with us about his relationship with Geo, how rewarding tutoring is, and how his T4A experience has shaped his plans to run his own classroom one day.
How did you hear about Tutors for All?
I was looking for opportunities to get involved with the community. As an engineering major, a lot of my time is very, let’s say, self-oriented. All you do is work: homework, projects, et cetera. I like to feel useful, and I wanted to find a way where I could help by helping others.
Honestly, I found Tutors for All just by Googling. My first time meeting anyone from Tutors for All was when I met Kate and Joe (Tobin’s Program Manager and Program Coordinator) at my training interview; it wasn’t your typical interview, and I liked that it was part of the training course – it seemed a little more dynamic, and less of a spotlight situation. I was hired as a tutor, and I’ve been with Tutors for All since mid-September, and so far it’s been great.
Tell us about the student you work with.
My student’s name is Geo, and he’s in the 6th grade at Tobin. Our relationship started off a little rocky, because he didn’t really want to be there, and didn’t understand why he had to be there. Now, it’s a little better, and he’s started opening up about his personal life. One thing is that he’s really into starting his own business – he’s even started his own little business in school. He likes to craft and make little paper figures like stars, and claws, and he sells them to other students, and even teachers. So a lot of the time we end up talking about that, and how his business is going.
What’s been your most memorable experience so far?
I can’t say that I have one favorite single moment – but my favorite part of tutoring so far is seeing how far I’ve come in building a relationship with Geo. He started off pretty antagonistic, and just didn’t want to do anything; the process of breaking down his barriers, getting to know him, finding out who he is, and what makes him tick – the sum total of that experience, and being able to look back on our progress, is definitely my favorite part.
What do you hope to do after you graduate?
I actually want to become a teacher, a high school math teacher to be exact. I love the experience of teaching, of breaking down concepts so that they can be more easily understood.
I’d made the decision before working with Tutors for All, and that was actually partly why I wanted to get involved. I plan to keep myself open to whatever’s needed most as a teacher, but working with Tutors for All has really helped open my eyes to the various components of education, and how many different things need to come together in order for a teacher to be effective. So it’s definitely helped evolve my perspective on teaching.
What kind of student were you when you were Geo’s age?
I was kind of a shy, reclusive student. Especially at that age, since I loved to read more than I loved math, I probably would’ve been that student who’s reading a book under the desk, ignoring the teacher’s instructions.
Any final words of wisdom for fellow tutors, or others who hope to go into education?
Enthusiasm is infectious. You need to be excited to be there for your students to be excited to be there; otherwise, they’ll latch onto your negativity and it’ll become a sort of motivational disease. So no matter what, it’s important to stay positive.