Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Challenges and Opportunities of Tutoring Students

This report, from a graduate student studying in the New York City, NY (A-stage) cluster highlights some of the unique challenges and opportunities (and the flexibility that is needed) in meeting the spiritual needs of busy students.

“Working with students is both a blessing and a challenge. On the one hand, students are open-minded and receptive, but they are also extremely busy, are preoccupied with school and other responsibilities, and aren’t always ready or able to commit to a core activity or take ownership of it.

When we moved to New York City, we were eager to start core activities in our home and immediately made plans to get to know our neighbors and our colleagues so as to have someone to invite. This is still an ongoing endeavor and we try to carve out time in our schedule for developing our budding “community of interest.” We do this by inviting friends and acquaintances over, visiting them in their homes, or going out for dinner or for coffee. We have also started a weekly dinner/social-get-together in our home in order to bring our friends together and create a sense of community in our neighborhood. We have “inherited” four seekers introduced to the Faith by other Baha’is, all of whom agreed to join a Book They are all graduate students and they are all very enthusiastic about investigating the Faith, although their schedules can be extremely difficult to accommodate.Our study circle has, therefore, taking a very non-traditional form and has involved a lot of flexibility and individual attention. In fact, we have only once met as an entire group, the rest of the study has taken place in more intimate one-on- one settings. Sometimes our study circle “meetings” take the form of home visits. We go to a person’s home, share a meal, and go through the materials informally in their living room or dorm room. At other times, we don’t go through the materials at all, but have impromptu “firesides” about diverse topics that interest the seekers. This format is in some ways more difficult for us as tutors, simply because it requires a lot of individual scheduling, emails and phone calls. It also takes more time since we end up covering the same material several times, instead of once all together. It is also harder to create a sense of community when we are all working separately. That being said there are benefits.First of all, we know that some of these individuals would have simply dropped out if they were required to commit to a weekly study circle. Secondly, meeting in their home and in a more intimate setting enables us to establish close heart-to-heart connections with the seekers. Finally, allowing for flexibility like this gives participants the opportunity to ask burning questions without feeling like they are slowing down an entire group. Working together on scheduling and taking turns hosting (hopefully) also encourages participants to take ownership of the learning process and prepares them for initiating their own core activities down the line. The learning curve is steep but we hope that the skills and experience we are gaining from working with these seekers will help us develop and nurture our own community of interest.”

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