Blurred lines between "tutor" and "friend"
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When I first started tutoring I was scrolling through the list of enrolled students in the course and thinking how cool it was that I knew so many people in it! I thought it would be really interesting to get to help friends and colleagues with a course that I really enjoyed when I did it.
I probably could not have been literally more wrong about that.
The difference between teaching your friends and teaching strangers, beyond the fact that your advice as a person with authority doesn't get taken seriously, is that there is no longer a firm line between what is and is not okay to discuss, and in what context.
Most students are confined to asking you questions face-to-face in their allocated tutorial. That's what we like. I'm getting paid for that time so by all means chew my ear off with your list of questions; I don't mind! But your friends can Snapchat, Facebook message, text, call, track you down in your personal time, hit you up late at night... all of that. It's always "just a quick question" and "you can say no if you don't want to answer", but the reality is that there is an element of pressure because if you don't help them out "just this one time, I promise", then you're not a friend when it counts, and then, what's the point of having you around anyway?
Today, a Sunday, is the day of a pretty major submission for the students in my class. It's worth around 20%, but more so the submission process is quite (admittedly) tricky, and we have had lots of technological issues with the submission platform. Additionally, the assignment itself has quite a vague outline. So, on top of all the questions I have received in the last 3 weeks -during my personal time- about what they need to submit, how to use the software, how 'polished' does it need to be, etc, etc, today I have been completely bombarded with questions on how to actually submit the assignment. For reference, this is a topic we have extensively covered through tutor posts on the group Facebook page as well as in tutorials, lectures, announcements on Blackboard, and in their course details document. Not only is it extremely annoying to have so many last minute questions coming through on already explained topics, but it's also pretty lazy.
My theory is that having an informal connection with your students (i.e. having a friendship) fosters laziness in the students. My experience has been that when something goes wrong, the very first thing your friends will do is contact you, something no other student can do, to ask you to fix it. They won't attempt to problem solve their issues as they would in literally any other course, any issue becomes your issue.
I guess that's another draw back of having peers double as tutors, especially in a field as specialised as the one I teach in. Everyone knows everyone! Next time I'm going to adopt an "I don't talk about course issues" mentality, and make sure my friends know that. It's a bit of a double edged sword though because as soon as do that I burn the bridge and can't ask my friends about the courses they teach!
It's a tough balancing act.