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Keeping Tutoring Fun and Developing a Rapport

I had to share the nicest email that I just received from a student whom I tutored back in 2004, when he was 12 years old and in middle school.  This kid, James, was a kick.  He was precocious, intelligent, funny, friendly, adorable, and hyperactive.  He was a challenge to tutor because he had SO much physical and intellectual energy.  But I loved working with him because he was so endearing and engaging.  The trick to getting him to settle down was to give him brief reward breaks to talk about whatever he wanted once he had accomplished an academic goal for the session.  We timed his reward breaks to three minutes.  I think he liked the specific nature of that time frame.  We also had times where we'd be silly and a little gross together -- we'd be eating a snack while working, and he'd open his mouth and show me his chewed up food.  So I'd do the same thing back to him.  That kid surely made me laugh, and I became a better tutor because of him


We had to part ways when he moved over the hill (I live in the Valley, and the commute was too much).  The email I just got from him -- 13 years later -- let me know that he is now in medical school.  I couldn't believe he remembered me, and remembered my name in order to find me online.  I can't stop smiling.  These are the moments that every teacher and tutor loves...when you realize that you really do matter, that you truly did make an impact, that you honestly added moral goodness to the world. 

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