Tag Archives: Academia

Helpful hints for tutors

So I bragged a bit about my students’ response to my tutoring, and in discussion, Hugh asked for the secrets of my success, which I duly gave, including this piece of advice:

I make a big effort to learn all my students’ names, and use them.

But George said, “How?!”

Here I reveal my best technique for learning students’ names – the seating chart.

In the first tutorial, I get my students to give me their full name, and tell me a little bit about why they are doing the course. I try to make comment back to each person, using their name (basic memory technique). But more importantly, as we go around the table, I write down each person’s name around my cunning seating chart.


For the rest of that session, I work on remembering names, keeping the chart in front of me as an aid. I also tell them exactly what I’m doing. Next week, as people come in and sit down, I try to recall their names, and use them, and ask them to correct me if necessary, and I write up a fresh chart as I go. Alas, the students don’t sit in exactly the same place each week, though as it turns out, most students tend to sit in more-or-less the same area each week, or at the very least, on the same side of the table in relation to the windows or door or whatever. It’s as though they find a comfortable spot, and then stay there.

I find that I usually have to do the chart for about four weeks or so. By then, with a bit of effort, I have most of their names in memory. It’s worth doing – most students seem to really appreciate being more than just another number.

Any other helpful hints for tutors? All suggestions will be gratefully received, from tutors or tutorees.

Cross posted

That was very gratifying

I had my last tutorial for the semester today.

My students gave me a round of applause.*

That was very gratifying. And I am very grateful to them for acknowledging the work I put into tutoring.

*Damn straight – I’m bragging! Occasionally lecturers get a round of applause at the end of a course, but ahem, actually, it’s very unusual for tutors to be acknowledged like that.

The visitor

An academic friend sent this to me. I laughed. Out loud. A lot. I thought you might enjoy it too. Especially if you are, or have been, an academic. Or been around academic departments.

The author (“W”) has given me permission to put this piece on my blog, but it is copyright, so please don’t copy it yourself, but link to it here.



“This is something we’d better take to the Head.”

“Are you sure?” I said.

But I knew there was no avoiding it. So Smales and I slowly walked to the corner office. At each step the clattering of the typewriter echoed minutely louder. As we approached, the occasional grunt or whoop leaked from the edges of the door. The Head was talking to himself again. Then all fell silent as Smales knocked, and we went in.

“Eh?” said the Head. “Eh .. eh .. eh eh eh?” from behind the pungent aroma of his fruit lunch.

“We’re thinking of inviting a visitor to the School,” replied Smales.

The Head mercifully licked and swallowed the last of the banana mush from around his lips and asked “Who who who who who who?”

“John Howard,” I volunteered “we understand he’s looking for university engagement.”

“Steeeee – veeen” screeched the Head, and started shaking his head vigorously. He picked up a sheaf of papers and shook it at us.

“EEEHHHHHHH,” he cried, “Steeeee – veeen? EEEHHHHHH.”

“No, no,” said Smales, “John Howard. He’s not the same as Steven. Remember Head, Steven retired to Vietnam to run ESOL courses for nuns.”

“Steeee – veeen!” yelled the Head. Dropping his papers, he slammed his palm down on the desk for emphasis. It made a loud and hollow slap.

The Head was impressed. He looked at the palm of his hand. Then peered at it, and slowly slapped it down again. Then the other hand. Then both at once. Then one after the other after the other, building up a positive tattoo of emphasis.

“oooooooooooh,” said the Head, “OOOOOOOOOOO HHHHHHH! Who who who who who who who who who who!”

By now he was shaking his fists. Then he threw his pen at us, followed by a form, and then scrambled for the corner and started rummaging around. We knew what that meant. Last time, my wife insisted I dry clean my jacket afterwards. Imagine – as if I was a merchant banker or something equally frivolous. Really, it had all come off with wet wipes, and there was no need for that. Still no sense taking chances. Smales and I beat a retreat while the Head was temporarily empty handed.

I was flummoxed. What now. Should we wait for the Head to calm down and return? Would it be better to abandon the whole idea? Now that the Head had seen me at work, should I go home for the rest of the day? Why did he always eat fruit for lunch?

“Well,” said Smales, “I think that was as clear a yes as we’ve ever seen. Just drop the form into the secretary when you’ve filled it out, will you? I don’t think the Head needs to see it again.”