By Ethan Weber, a current student at Bucknell University
I like to talk. This is why I was drawn to the Peer Tutoring program at Orange County Community College. As far as I was concerned, tutoring was an opportunity to be scheduled for fifty-minute sessions during which I could talk about topics I enjoy. It was this penchant for talking, however, that worried me. Would my tutees benefit from the experience? Would I take anything away from it? After my first few sessions, however, I became more confident and began to realize how rewarding the program could be for both tutor and student.
The educational benefits of tutoring became clear immediately. At the beginning of the second semester of my freshman year, I completed the necessary paper work to tutor Elementary Spanish I and II (as well as Foundations of Communication). I soon realized that not only were my students’ Spanish grades improving, but mine were as well. The constant review of elementary Spanish was allowing me to better comprehend the Intermediate Spanish I was studying. Rather than spend time re-learning the old, I was able to focus on the new. Even when not taking Spanish courses, my tutoring of the language allowed me to retain my skills. I am reminded of this each time I must converse “en español.”
Skill retention was not the only way in which I benefitted from my new role as a tutor. Unexpectedly, my involvement in the program allowed me to expand my worldview. During my first semester of tutorials, I worked with a Nigerian student. With my help, he was able to earn A’s in Foundations of Communication despite speaking English only as a second language. For him, his excellent grades were reward enough. For me, the educational benefits transcended the academic. Throughout the semester, I learned much about Nigeria, from the name of my tutee’s native language—Ebo—to the country’s social and political atmosphere. While helping this student with a speech about medical issues faced by Nigeria’s poor, I learned that Nigerians are asking themselves many of the same healthcare questions that are common in the United States.
My studies in Spanish have taught me much about the cultures of Spain and Latin America, but I never would have thought that a required course called “Foundations of Communication” would bring together two students from different continents and allow them to compare cultures. Originally, I had feared my tutoring would come across as the ramblings of an enthusiastic student. Had I not pursued this interest, I not only would have missed an opportunity to educate, I would have passed up a chance to be educated.