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Curriculum development

Personal Tutor Profile: Merideth Gattis, School of Psychology

31 July 2020

Tell us a little about yourself, what School you’re a Senior Personal Tutor in and how long have you been involved with Personal Tutoring?
I did my undergraduate studies at a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts, where the professors on our degree course knew every student by name. My professors encouraged me to consider an academic career, and gave me practical, at times tough-minded, advice about making the transition to a large research-focused university for my postgraduate studies. Those experiences set a benchmark for me as a personal tutor.

What’s been the most rewarding thing about being a Personal Tutor so far?
The primary reward of personal tutoring for me is witnessing students’ growth – in knowledge and skills, in confidence and perspective. For some students, growth is sure and steady, while for others it takes longer, and may even include a few stops and starts, but growth is an almost inevitable part of a university degree. Personal tutors in the School of Psychology greet students the day they start university and say goodbye at graduation, so we have a unique and privileged vantage point for witnessing that growth.

What’s been the biggest realisation for you in terms of the impact a Personal Tutor can have on students?
Personal Tutors are sometimes uncomfortable talking about emotional issues with students, but I like to have a frank conversation about stress and coping at the start of the year. I always begin by asking students about sports, hobbies, and other activities outside of the degree. I encourage students to find activities that help them cope with the stresses and strains of university, and to monitor their reliance on less productive strategies such as drugs and alcohol. I think of that conversation as a stitch in time – it can help students make good choices.

What advice would you impart to colleagues new to Personal Tutoring?
As a Personal Tutor, I’m constantly reminded of the diversity of human experience. There is no normal or typical student, so keep your eyes and ears open.

What 5 things would you recommend as good practice for all Personal Tutors?
Learn your students’ names! It matters immensely to them. Schedule regular meetings with students so that you can help them anticipate and manage the inevitable challenges. Encourage your students to set goals for themselves that aren’t defined by marks alone. All of these practices are about being proactive rather than reactive, which will help you manage your role and will encourage your students to be proactive as well.

A new Personal Tutoring Online Resource will soon be live and available to all Personal Tutors, Senior Personal Tutors and those that help support the Personal Tutoring System. Keep an eye on the CESI blog for more information.