You may recall that I started tutoring a high school IB student in Florida. Well, I’ve had four tutoring sessions with her, and things are going amazingly well. It’s still a bit clunky with my sketchy home Wi-Fi, but other than that, I feel that she is getting the same high quality of instruction as the students I tutor in person. Here’s my system:
On my MacBook, I use FaceTime to video chat with her. We have each other’s cell phone numbers so that’s what we use to contact each other. Using FaceTime allows me to read her facial expressions to see if she understands or maybe needs a different explanation of the concept. When the Wi-Fi connection is good, this proves very valuable, but sometimes the screen freezes, which makes for interesting conversation: “Do you have a question?… Are you there?… Hello?” On the bright side, if I only had audio, I wouldn’t be able to tell whether she was pausing to process ideas, or whether I lost the connection altogether.
On two-thirds of the same Macbook screen, I open a Google Doc. This allows her to copy and paste questions from assignments or test reviews so that we can work through them together and add our individual contributions to the same document, and we color-code our contributions. (The original question is in black, her contributions are in red, and mine are in green.) Usually I have time to look at them before the tutoring session begins, so I can write some notes that will remind me how to solve later, and may give her an idea of where to start.
Beside the MacBook is a separate device, my iPad. On it, I use an application called BaiBoard 3. This application is similar to a Google Doc, in that two people can contribute to the same page, but it’s for drawing instead of typing. So, if I need to draw a picture in order to explain my process or understanding, I go to the iPad and start drawing with my finger. (For those that have used Google Docs, you understand how difficult it may be to draw a picture in a Doc.) This has come in very handy when I need to use right-triangle trigonometry or division of polynomials.
The trickiest part was payment. Normally when I tutor, I get paid with cash or a check. But it’s not that easy when your student lives so far away. I honestly didn’t know much about transferring money, so the student’s father and I both started investigating. Her father discovered something called Zelle, which allows anyone to transfer money from their bank account to another bank account. All you need is the recipient’s permission and cell phone number. The student’s father now prepays for three hours’ worth of tutoring at a time.
I decided to keep track of total tutoring time and payments using Google Sheets, which is like Microsoft Excel. I’ve allowed the student’s father to view this document, just so that he doesn’t feel like I’m overcharging. On the Google Sheet, I keep track of how long each session is, and how much money I’ve been prepaid. Then when I reach or exceed three hours, I email the student’s father to let him know. He requested I do this so that he can stay current with payment.
So there it is! I know that there are other better applications I could be using to accomplish everything, and if you know of any, please let me know. But for now, this seems to be working for both of me and the student. The only app she hadn’t used before was BaiBoard, but once she downloaded it and gained access, the rest was easy.
Yesterday, we finished reviewing for her semester exam which she is taking today. Hopefully she does well. She does seem very pleased with how things are going, and with how much she understands now. She admitted to feeling much more confident about her semester exam. I must say that I look forward to working with her more next semester, and finding ways to make the whole experience even smoother and even more productive.
Like most teachers, I like to do tutoring after school for those who need it, and are not in my class. I will usually meet a student at the local library for about an hour once a week in the evening, answering any questions they have about the week’s assignments or working ahead in the curriculum if there’s time.
Since I live and work in different cities, I can tutor students from both cities. But I never thought I would be given an opportunity like this:
I received an email from a father who was concerned about his daughter’s success in a junior level IB math class. The difference is, they live in Florida!
He ran across my name by doing a search of IB math teachers online. It’s a good thing my online presence is positive, because I think I was one of the first teachers he contacted, if not the first.
Once I agreed to tutor his daughter, it was time to figure out logistics. How would we communicate? How could I watch her work and point out errors as they come up? How could the father compensate me for my time?
After doing some research, we (the student and I) decided to communicate face-to-face using Facetime on our laptops. We also downloaded BaiBoard 3, an interactive whiteboard app, to our iPads so that I could watch her work and give written feedback on the spot as well. Surprisingly, the easiest part was working out the transfer of funds. Most banks have this and make it easy for customers, regardless of the bank they use, to transfer money from one account to another.
So, it’s all set up now. We met briefly yesterday just to introduce ourselves, and the father paid me in advance for the first three hours. We even tested the BaiBoard app by writing “Hello” to each other. And everything went very smoothly.
Our first session is on Monday evening, and I’m very excited about this new way of tutoring. Perhaps if I’m successful, I could look into tutoring more students in other states, and maybe other countries.
If you would like to follow my progress, please let me know, and I’ll post more as the sessions progress.