A Tutoring Free for All
Programs offer help for needy students
March 29, 2004 1:20 PM
Jennifer Peters sits in the tutoring wing on the third floor of the HSS building between two moveable dividers that serve to form a makeshift cubical.
She will have no time to even get up from her seat before the next student arrives asking for help with questions about their course work.
Twice a week Peters meets with four students, part of a grammar for writing group, working to help them pass their remedial English class at SF State. She also has weekly regulars and tutors student drop-ins.
This busy workload that consumes Peters day characterizes the state of most on campus tutoring programs.
All this lies in the wake of figures released by the California State University system stating that a little more than 40 percent of incoming freshman need remedial work in both math and English, based on English Placement (EPT) and Entry Level Math (ELM) exam scores.
The Learning Assistance Center (LAC) and the Community Access and Retention Program (CARP) are two of the main programs on campus that allow students to either schedule an appointment or drop in to receive help with their class work, for free.
Student use of the LAC increased 33.6 percent from 2000 to 2003, according to LAC complied statistics.
Tutors at the LAC are paid graduate, undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants who receive 20 hours of training to prepare them to help students one-on-one or in small groups.
Peters, a graduate student in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), has worked for the LAC for a few months now and is constantly busy.
Beyond one-on-one help and tutoring services, the LAC also offers access to a computer lab with Internet access and tutors to help navigate both the Macs and PCs.
“The tutoring services are designed to help students with the improvement of their academic skills. Not just with the content of a particular course but also transfer skills like reading, time management and visualization,” said Peter Ingmire, the math and sciences coordinator for the LAC, who started tutoring as a graduate student and is now a teacher in the biology department.
Like Ingmire and Peters, many of the LAC tutors are on track to become teachers, some of them already teach undergraduate classes on campus.
The CARP offers ELM and EPT workshops, about an hour in length, that help prepare students to take the test by teaching techniques, skills and giving sample problems.
Both CARP and the LAC have pooled their resources to offer students free tutoring during an 11 hour period four days a week, Monday through Thursday, and five hours on Friday.
Exact hours and location: LAC M-TH 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. FRI 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. HSS 348 and CARP M-TH 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. FRI 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. HSS 344.
There is also free tutoring available through some departments, like the business, English, and sociology departments.
These departments have tutoring programs available to students during limited times.
“I like this job because it allows me to look at papers other than my own, and I get to meet students who are driven. They wouldn’t be coming to me if they weren’t,” said Matt Freeman, a graduate student, hired by the sociology department, earning his master’s in political science with an emphasis in political theory.
Freeman earned a bachelor’s from UC Berkeley in rhetoric, which helped him to closely analyze text and write poignant arguments, composing what he calls “proper” essays.
So far this semester he has helped five to 10 students with a success rate of 100 percent, no students have returned with complaints about the grade they received.
Like many of the tutors at the LAC, Freeman aspires to be a teacher and sees this as an opportunity to hone his skills.
He can be found in the sociology student lounge, HSS 375, Monday and Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Or he can be contacted by e-mail to make an appointment.
Li says some days she helps two or three students.
“Before they ask me they are very confused but if I can answer their questions they are very happy and I am satisfied,” Li said.
The alternative to free tutoring on campus is to hire a private tutor. This can cost anywhere from $25 to $40 an hour. Private tutors usually are flexible and work around a student’s schedule, meeting on or off campus, in a coffee shop or private home.
“My experience and qualifications allow me to teach the tricks of the trade that some tutors on campus don’t want to teach. I am not mainly concerned with grades but helping students to be successful,” said Dan Brook, a private tutor who advertises his services on various bulletin boards around campus.
Brook has a bachelor’s degree in socio-political economy from Clark University, a master’s in political science from SF State, and a doctorate in sociology from Davis.
He offers students help with research papers, essays, articles, dissertations, graduate applications, and preparing for the SAT, GRE and GMAT. Brook has graded essays for the GRE before.
Brook describes his style as easy-going with effective techniques. He has taught at both SF State and UC Berkeley.
Still some students see the advantages of free tutoring on campus outweighing those of acquiring a private tutor.
“It is so convenient to have tutors available on campus, I can get help in between my classes or before I make the long trek home … and I don’t even have to bust out my wallet!” said Brandon Scordino, a San Jose resident and commuter student who has utilized the free campus tutoring services in the past.
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