Sometimes, Calculus can get a little too hard to handle on your own. When you need a little help with school, your parents might hire a tutor so you have a homework buddy. Well, the same is true of life. I’ve spent almost 10 years earning side-income from tutoring high school and middle school students. During that time, I’ve taught a bunch of information, but I’ve also learned a lot from my tutees. It’s always that way, isn’t it, in movies and tv shows and in real life, too, like the best teacher-student relationship of all time: Mr. Feeny and Cory in Boy Meets World.

Just like these fictional teachers, I, too, have learned at least as much from my students. Here’s a brief list of the lessons I’ve learned from my students that you can teach your tutors, too, just by being you.

It’s okay to be frustrated with something — it can even be helpful!

Many times, I saw students ripping their hair out over some problem or other, feeling super frustrated and like they’ll never understand how to graph conic sections. (Always start with transforming the equation to the standard formula.) When someone felt really tense and annoyed, they might not be able to get the answer right away, but the height of their emotion about the subject almost always gave my tutee enough perseverance to eventually understand the solution. I try to remember that any time I become frustrated with something I can’t quite grasp — the heat of that anger will push me through to the solution.

What you should be doing isn’t always what you really should be doing.

Ok, so what does that mean? There were often times when my students would feel super stressed about if they should work on a homework assignment or go to a sports practice or go hang out with their friends. Basically, high school is a super intense time with demands on every second of your day! I remember feeling much the same way when I was pulled between play rehearsal and swim team and hanging out with friends at the mall (yep, definitely did that). There’s not one blanket answer of what you should always choose, contrary to the many filtered inspirational posts about always choosing friends or working super super hard, especially when The Future is looming over your head but so is your social standing.

The truth is, my students usually knew exactly what they should really be doing. They knew if this assignment was super super important and needed to take precedence over Rob’s pool party, or if they needed a break and it would be okay to skip that extra credit assignment. Just because there’s pressure from others to make a certain choice doesn’t mean you should listen to anything but your gut and a well-reasoned pro/cons list. If you trust yourself and are honest with yourself, you will make the right decision. I try to remember that now that I’m in the wilds of adulthood and have to make choices about what percent milk I should buy.

Never act like you know something you actually don’t.

This is a lesson for me and from me. Guys, I can tell when you don’t understand a concept. I really can. It doesn’t make the tutoring session go by any faster; it just makes it harder for me to tell what parts you don’t know and how to best explain it to you. Conversely, there have been a few times where I wasn’t totally sure about a specific physics problem, or didn’t remember the plot point of a play, and I tried to bluff my way through it. Teens, although you may think adults are impervious to your looks of disdain, I’m here to bravely tell you that WE ARE NOT. I have been withered by many a 16-year-old’s eye roll. When you get a little older, you get better at pretending that you don’t know the other person is totally bluffing, but that also means you get more lax about bluffing. I try really hard not to bluff, and to just be honest when I’m not sure about an answer. Thank you, teen attitude!

Treat those who help you with respect.

This should be a no-brainer, but it’s a good one to keep in mind. Respect and gratitude go hand-in-hand, and they’re also the kind of good attitudes that make you feel so much happier when you manage to genuinely embody them. I realized soon after I started tutoring that it was rare to have a student thank me at the end of a session. When one did, I was taken aback with how good it made me feel. Yes, of course, I was being paid to tutor this student, but the simple recognition of my effort made all the difference to me. That moment taught me more about how it’s important to say thank you than years of being told so by my parents.

Always take a moment to take pride in your accomplishments.

I forget this one a lot. You know that feeling of essays and tests and studying just constantly hanging over your head, and how you’re so excited for summer to come so you won’t feel that pressure any more, because even when you finish an assignment you know there’s always more to do? That feeling doesn’t go away after school, but you do have to learn how to manage it. When I saw students brushing past their good grades and awards or even just completing a homework page and already worrying about the next thing, I saw how damaging it was not to take that moment to just breathe, smile, and feel great about finishing something to the best of your ability. The confidence that you gain from that moment will help you feel prepared to take on the next task and the next.

Okay, young padawans. Thank you for teaching me some lessons, just by being you. Go out and teach your tutor a thing or two.

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(Images via here, here and ABC.)