My Story

How I Became a Full-Time Tutor

 

 

I was first introduced to tutoring during my freshman year of college when I took a class that required 40 hours of tutoring students taking a Pre-GED course at a local college. I was a pretty shy person so I was a little apprehensive about the tutoring component of the class, but to my surprise I really enjoyed it. I worked with students individually on their math and reading skills, and I especially liked tutoring students in math. I loved helping them excel and I was very engaged and outgoing while tutoring. I almost felt like a different person. After the semester ended, I tutored students in a few math and science classes throughout the rest of my college years. I still had a desire to tutor and wanted to help my fellow students whenever I could.

 

After graduating from Penn State with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, I got a job as a transportation planner at a local planning commission. However, I was feeling dissatisfied with my career path and during this time I became interested in physics research. I eventually decided I wanted to pursue becoming a physics professor as a career. I quit my job at the planning commission and enrolled in Penn State’s undergraduate physics program so that I had adequate preparation for a PhD program in physics. 

 

After graduating with a second bachelor’s degree in physics and a math minor, I decided to take a year off before applying to grad school. During this time I began private tutoring students in math and physics classes to earn some money during the year. I knew that tutoring was something I really enjoyed and thought it would be a good temporary gig before going to grad school. I learned a lot about effective methods of tutoring during this time and it was a great experience, but it then became time to apply to grad school. I applied to schools all over Pennsylvania and neighboring states, but I ended up accepting an offer from Lehigh University, which was only a 20 min drive from my house. 

 

Like most grad students in science I was offered a Teaching Assistant position where I taught classes, created course materials, and graded exams and lab reports in exchange for full tuition reimbursement and a stipend. During my first 3 semesters of grad school I taught an introductory physics lab where I would give a lecture at the beginning of each class explaining the main concepts and steps needed to complete each lab experiment. I would then go around the room and help each lab group individually if they were stuck and had questions. I enjoyed spending time one-on-one with each group because it felt very similar to tutoring. 

 

However, during my fourth semester of grad school I was assigned to teach an introductory physics recitation. For the recitation, I would lecture for the entire class and go over example problems that were based on the material from the other portion of the class, which was taught by a professor. This wasn’t quite like tutoring because I wasn't able to talk with students individually like I had in the lab unless they came to my office hours (which was rare). I didn’t enjoy the fact that I had to teach the same material at the same rate for every student because I knew the greater benefits that individual learning could bring. I also hadn’t passed the qualifying exam needed to continue on in the grad program so my academic future was quite uncertain. 

 

I had reached a breaking point when the professor I was working with on astrophysics research decided to cut ties with me. I was forced to look for another professor to work with to continue on in the program. Unfortunately, I was only able to find one other professor whose research I was interested in and he was not taking on any additional students. I was given a second chance to pass the qualifying exam in the summer and although I was unsure whether I wanted to continue on in the program I decided I would try again. 

 

As I was studying for the exam, I had more and more doubts as to whether I should stay in the program and was thinking about what I would do if I decided to leave. One of the first things that popped into my head was tutoring. I had never really considered tutoring as a possible full-time career until that point. I decided to look into it and found a few people online that were not only full-time tutors, but also helped other people become full-time tutors. I tried to keep studying for my qualifying exam, but all I could think about was what I would do if I started a tutoring business. Since I had no direction or means of continuing in the physics grad program, I decided to leave the program and start my own tutoring business. I had earned a master’s degree in physics after completing my third semester and had two years of classroom teaching experience, so the program was definitely not a waste since it added to my credentials and teaching capabilities.

 

Since leaving grad school in August 2018, I’ve tutored hundreds of students and have continued to expand my business. Instead of lecturing to a class of students that are learning at all different rates and have various learning styles, I now have the chance to help the struggling students on an individual basis. I am able to once again pursue my passion for tutoring that I had found when I was a freshman in college. I feel that it is my obligation to help students achieve their academic goals and go on to lead more successful, productive, and fulfilling lives.

Chris DiMenichi