Tutoring across the divide – a Q&A

Tutoring across the divide – a Q&A

I sat down with Misty de Robillard, a third year Law student and Rhodes University graduate to discuss the work she does in education as both a formalised tutor and a volunteer for the Jireh Jehovah Haven. 

Q: You are involved in different areas of tutoring. Walk me through the basics of each?

A: Firstly, there is the work I do for the Classics department at Rhodes University. I’ve been doing this for 2 years now. Basically, as a tutor for Classics 1s, as far as my responsibilities are concerned, I meet with them once a week and go over the tutorials they’ve been given to finish. I also have to mark their term essays and/or tests. Other than that, I make myself available for my tutlings to message me whenever they have a problem regarding Classics or next extra academic help with regards to essay-writing or exam prep.

Secondly, I am a tutor for JJH – which I am also a committee member for. I see the children once every two weeks – more if possible – and spend an afternoon with them helping them with homework and general life skills. I mainly tutor the Grade 3s and 4s but I often switch between the age groups where more help is needed depending on volunteer numbers.

Q: How do you deal with tutoring people who are your contemporaries in your University tutorials?

A: Most of them are my contemporaries. I take 3 tutorial groups which means that I have about 40+ tutlings. I don’t see it as a problem really, tutoring people who are the same age as me, or older, or are my friends particularly challenging. I’m the kind of tutor who prefers to establish mutual respect and understanding rather than assuming a position of direct authority over them. Basically, I try to become friends with my tutlings while still exercising my responsibilities as a tutor and not allowing my personal relationships with my tutlings to influence the academic relationship I share with them.

11334006_10153387011209548_8501154538050649257_oQ: What are your thoughts on the distinction in social class between the students you tutor Classics and the JJH kids? 

A: It makes me feel incredibly privileged firstly. Regardless of how much work I have or how taxing my responsibilities are, I never leave a JJH session without feeling blessed for the education I’ve received and am able to share with others. It saddens me sometimes when I can see my university tutlings have so much potential that they aren’t willing to use and they don’t take advantage of the wonderful opportunity of coming to Rhodes. While I know that my JJH children would give anything to one day receive the education that my tutlings are receiving now and would not disregard this opportunity so lightly.

Q: It is said that to teach is to learn. Do you agree?

A: Yes. Definitely. Tutoring Classics has taught me how to be objective and unbiased when viewing someone else’s work. It has also taught me tolerance because sometimes when you don’t get along with someone you are meant to be teaching, it makes it difficult to separate personal issues from professional issues. Tutoring difficult students who are very different from myself has taught me how to be professional and fair. JJH on the other hand has taught me the invaluable gift of patience and compassion. While these are traits that I say I would possess by nature, working with these children has heightened them, I suppose and made me far more aware of the world around me and the struggles that exist within it.

Q: Best memory from your time as a tutor?

A: For JJH, one of the children is an extremely talented artist, and wise beyond his years. One day he was showing me his artbook and as we were flipping through the pages I saw a letter written in pencil. I asked him what the letter was and he told me that it was a letter he wrote to himself. When I asked him why he said “I wrote this letter so one day, when I’m speaking at one of my art exhibitions overseas, I can show people this letter to remind them and myself where I came from.”


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