Monday, December 13, 2010

Interview with LP part I

A fellow blogger wanted to do a new book and I was invited to be one of the diverse people interviewed for the book. I thought it'll be a good read for those who follows my blog to know more about me. The whole interview is pretty long, so I'll split up into two installments. Here goes:


Specifically what subjects do you teach?

I started off teaching secondary school subjects like e.maths, a.maths and science (physics and chemistry). That's because I'm much more confident of the subject content in secondary school than other levels, so it's easier for me to pick it up. However, I'm always out to gain new experience in teaching new subjects and new contents, so I taught primary school science for a few years just to get a feel of it. Then, because of my student's request, I started doing A'lvl chemistry and maths. On and off, there'll be request from my students who needed help in university and polytechnic modules, so I'll pick it up and teach too. I've done business statistics at university level and electronic engineering and engineering maths at diploma level too. The non-academic 'subjects' I've taught included elementary guitar whom I've taught to a select few students just for the fun of it and sort of a consultancy work for hands-on projects at different levels. Lastly, I've even shared whatever knowledge of technical analysis in the financial field to a few willing audience for free, just so that they can start learning on their own.

In your opinion what are the key factors that differentiate a super tutor from a regular one?

I think the term super tutor comes after our local newspaper started naming a few tutors who earn a very high five figure sum per month, so to them, super tutors are those who earn super income. In my opinion, there's one really important factor that differentiates a super tutor from the crowd - passion. You've got to love what you're doing to continually add value. You not only got to impart knowledge, you've got to breath life into the textbooks. Anybody can read from the textbooks but to make the words come alive as you teach, well, not everyone can do that. The passion level of students will at most be as high as your own, so if you do not exude an aura that learning is fun, then it will not be fun. As I learn more about this job, I also realized that building rapport with students is also a hallmark of super tutors. I think this comes from not treating students as students but as someone who has as much to teach you as you have to teach them - a sort of mutual respect not based on authority but as equals. I feel that only when the students are comfortable with you, then there will be a conducive environment to begin real learning.

Are there special ways or methods that super tutors use, to help students with their learning? Do share with me in detail.

There isn't any particular way that works for all students, as all of them learn in their diverse ways. I think before you start teaching anything, it's a good idea to find out more about the student. I'll usually start by asking some very general background information about them and find out what they like and dislike. These are important information because if you cater your examples to things that they like or dislike, the intensity of the emotions can help them to remember the examples much longer and thus the concepts that the examples are supposed to illustrate can easily be grasped. Talking about things that students like can also serve as a useful distraction when the attention span starts to dwindle. As tutors, you can't expect the students to come into your lesson feeling all hyped up and motivated to learn. That's the ideal situation but it almost never happens in reality. To make them learn better, you just have to put them in a state when they are most alert so that you can teach them before they start to lose their energy and attention, and you'll have to distract them and rev them up before starting the whole cycle again. It'll be extremely helpful if you can read body language and have interesting conversation topics that can connect with the students.

Where did you get this idea of being a tutor from?

After my graduation from civil engineering in National University of Singapore (NUS), I had applied for an accelerated masters to phD programme offered to me. I was accepted but I rejected it subsequently because I had wanted to apply for an overseas phD so that I can teach back in NUS (somehow NUS does not allow local phD holders to teach back in NUS again). My girlfriend was taking her masters in NUS too, so I wanted to wait for a year before applying together for overseas study. I started taking private tuition as a way to save up for the expenses needed for the trip in the event that I cannot get any scholarship there. However, as I get more into the tutoring, I realized that I never really like engineering at all and my interest in teaching is kindled. I never looked back again since I started this 7-8 years ago.

Where did you learn to become a super tutor? Who did you learn from? Share with me some learning sources which you think it’s helpful for others to follow your footsteps.

It was kind of difficult for me because I never had any tuition in my schooling years at all, so I had no idea what a typical tutor is supposed to do. Most of what I learnt comes from the examples and methods that my teachers had taught me in school and how I actually learn from them. I adapted some of these into my own method and found out through trial and error what works and what don't. I've no mentors who guided me when I first started nor any particular teachers that are my role models, so I pretty much picked up my skills on the job. However, along the way, I met some other fellow tutors and we shared our experiences with each other. Hui Huang is most instrumental in sharing her ideas on teaching with me and I had picked up a few things from her. I remembered I was reading voraciously on any books that deal with education in my early days into this career, and that doesn't include the textbooks for the content. I guess anybody can pick it up if they really find tutoring interesting enough.

To be continued in part ii....


athulican said...

Thanks for sharing.

Financial Journalist said...

Very interesting. I hope you had married your girlfriend already.

la papillion said...

Hi kanglc,

Hope you found it interesting :)

Hi FXtrader,

Yup married already :) My girl upgraded (or maybe you could call it a downgrade) to wife status recently ;)

Don't Anyhow said...

Thanks for sharing your experience! I too started investing using the money I earned from tuition along with my parents giving me capital to prevent it from being eroded in a savings account.

Thank you for the posts so far, they have been really enlightening for me, I have added your blog to my blogroll too.

Also I started a blog not too long ago about my investment journey, I hope that you would take a look and link me to your site?

la papillion said...

Hi xliew,

Added! Nice blog that you had :)