Behind the Screen: Talking with Humanities Tutor, Soraya Andriamiarisoa
Expert tutors are essential in providing 1:1 support for a student’s education journey. As mentors, coaches, and leaders, the tutors of Pear Deck Tutor's (formerly TutorMe) community allow on-demand tutoring to step beyond a platform for homework help, and become an essential resource in supporting the individual needs of all learners.
We are incredibly proud of our tutoring community, and we use the Behind the Screen series to highlight the dedication and passion of our expert tutors. In our last interview, we met with Farren Washington, to learn about her experience as a writing tutor with Pear Deck Tutor's Writing Lab.
In this interview, we had the privilege to meet with Humanities Tutor, Soraya Andriamiarisoa, a current graduate student in Library and Information Science. Soraya explains how she developed a love for tutoring at a young age and imparts some of her favorite tutoring tips to making every tutoring session engaging and successful.
Where did you go to college? And what did you study?
I went to University of California, Riverside as an Art History major. Currently, I am a graduate student in San Jose University School of Information, working toward a Master of Library and Information Science. This is an online program that I'm really excited to be a part of, and I'm learning that in information science everything is connected.
Why did you decide to become a Tutor?
I started tutoring in elementary school when a teacher pulled me aside and asked me to help a few students understand some grammar lessons. I have continued tutoring during my entire education. Tutoring is not just a job to me; it's contributing something meaningful and impactful that is tailored to the other person. It's giving back to the community. Something that I don't always tell everybody is that I needed a lot of tutoring in high school. Math was not my high point. I was the black sheep artist of the family, and I needed help with some subjects. The more I get into my education, the more I realize how much I don't know!
Why did you choose to tutor on Pear Deck Tutor?
I found out about Pear Deck Tutor when I was looking for a way to improve my professional resume. I did my research, and there was Pear Deck Tutor. The mission statement clicked with my own personal values. We both believe that tutoring is about human relationships. Some relationships are complicated and others are easy. But through tutoring, people can discover their professional passions.
Tutoring is about building a routine of lifelong learning – not just giving the right answers. Other organizations did not have such a clear mission.
I was also drawn to Pear Deck Tutor's interface, which is very intuitive and easy to use. Navigating it is simple, and there are lots of resources available. There are capabilities here that aren't available on other platforms.
I continue to work here because the staff at Pear Deck Tutor is constantly trying to improve. Each initiative focuses on the student, and sets a path for learning for everyone involved.
What are your most valuable tutoring skills?
I have three tutoring skills that I try to incorporate in my sessions.
- Patience and Kindness: Students come from all different backgrounds. Some feel intimidated to ask questions. Some say that they don't want to take up my time, but I want them to take my time! Learning is challenging, but it shouldn't be adverse.
- Artistic creativity: Pear Deck Tutor resources help me to use the learning platform to my advantage. If I turn a hard problem into something artistic, it gives students a way to be more engaged. Adding artistic touches is also an incentive for younger students to do their problems. After we work on a problem, then we can talk about something, like what we like to draw. It gives us room to bond.
- Problem-solving: During my sessions, I'm constantly on my toes. Sometimes, I don't have an answer quickly, so I have to play it by ear, and break it down into tiny little pieces. Problem solving takes time and patience and kindness and a little bit of artistic creativity. Problem solving can be stressful in an online environment. If we can find a common ground while we're working together, that helps.
How do you structure your tutoring session?
Each session is a balance between playing by ear and establishing a structured, step-by-step learning strategy. My structured strategy begins with:
Step One: I take a look at the problem the student is challenged with. That's always the first step!
Step Two: I have the student share the problem with me on the board. This second step helps me gauge the student's digital capabilities. If they need help sharing it, then I can teach them how, and we can go from there.
Step Three: I have the student underline and highlight all the phrases that they think are clues to solving the problem. If this feels too overwhelming to the student, I can encourage them to assign different colors or different symbols to make it more creative.
If the student is not feeling confident with the problem, they might say they aren't smart enough. I'll reassure them that it's not about their intelligence. They are dealing with a problem that has a lot of information in it. I might ask them how they are feeling, and if they say, "Okay," I'll say, "Yeah. I feel like that, too, sometimes." Using empathy is key to leading a successful session.
What strategies do you use to make students feel more comfortable?
It's all about diversity and communication. I try to tell the student that it's not an issue of where you come from or what you look like or what you sound like. Meeting in an online setting can be an intimidating place to cross paths with a stranger.
I try to let each student know that I'm a friend, and that I'm even more than a friend. I'm here to help, and they can feel absolutely safe with me. There are no such things as bad questions. This allows them to open up to me about more important things.
Our tutoring community is the heart of our mission to provide individualized learning support for every student. Soraya’s story highlights the expertise and dedication of our tutoring community in providing that individualized experience. We will be continuing our Behind the Screens series in the weeks to come, so keep an eye out for more posts. In the meantime, learn more about partnering with Pear Deck Tutor to empower your students with one-on-one academic support that fosters deeper learning through face-to-face collaboration.