It’s More Than Subject Matter: A Tutor’s Journey from Study Companion to Mentor

Tutor to Academic Coach - Big Bad Brainery

My Origin as an Educator

When I was a little girl, I used to line up my dolls on the couch and read to them. When my brother or my friends had trouble with a math problem, I would jump in to help. It feels like I’ve been a teacher since birth. Yet, I never aspired to be a classroom instructor.

In high school, I wanted a flexible part-time job. So I began working with my first tutoring client: a peer from my Geometry class. I saw the impact that our time together had on his success. This was my first experience of seeing the intense relief that washes over a person when they learn something they didn’t think they could learn, pass a test they didn’t think they could pass.

I wanted to continue helping people reach that moment of blissful understanding.

Tutoring as a Career

Since then, I’ve worked with students from ages 5 to 55, in all subjects. Providing the guidance they need has brought me great joy and, most of the time, left them with soaring confidence.

But the high doesn’t last. Inevitably, my students go back to class, only to be faced with the next unit, the next test, or the next teacher who will bring them back down to “reality.”

What School Makes Us Believe

In traditional classrooms, students are being sold a lie about their own capabilities. I was working with these incredibly bright people who believed they couldn’t be the one getting the good grades or the top test scores, because they had only ever been a certain kind of student. Many saw it as impossible to evolve as a learner due to some fundamental piece of who they were.

Even those who were at the top of their class and sought me out for enrichment or test prep came up against some toxic limiting beliefs.

These may have originated from parents, siblings, or teachers, and then became perpetuated by the students’ own negative self-talk.

The compulsory education system tells us:

If you aren’t able to pick up a book and learn just from reading, you’re dumb.

If you can’t write an essay with correct grammar, you’re never going to make it in the working world.

If you don’t understand math the way it is currently taught, your brain is the problem.

If you can’t raise your SAT score, you’ll never get into college (and therefore, never get a job).

To be frank, I knew all of this was BS.

Identifying the Pattern That Gets in the Way

All of these statements imply that there is something wrong with our essence if we don’t fit into the “good student” box. Even if we do perform decently in class, but things like studying and test-taking don’t come easily, we can grow up believing that something about us needs to be fixed.

Once I noticed this damaging pattern, I began exploring these thoughts with each of my tutoring clients. Confronting them head-on. With some, we spent entire sessions without textbooks or notes, talking about the things they felt were holding them back academically.

What I discovered was profound on a personal and professional level.

When we identify the source of a mental block, we create the ability to clear it. Applied to academics, this means that succeeding is not all about finding tricks for processing content. It’s not about the mechanics of memorizing, reading, writing, and testing. It’s about believing we can learn. The how comes after.

I wanted to take these discoveries and expand my impact.

the Guidance You Need to Renew Your Passion for Learning

I felt called to do more.

I'm a tutor, a mentor, a consultant. I sum it all up with the phrase “academic coaching.”

My venture into academic coaching is about lifting up each and every student, regardless of where they fall on the spectrum of grades, test scores, or classroom achievements.

Terminology aside, I become close with my clients, personally invested in their futures. In order to guide students towards a life in which school (and all its rules) are no longer barriers to their greatest dreams, I supply them with transformative stress relief and study tools in the present. I do this by simply recognizing the innate learners we all are.

You were born to learn anything you want. You simply haven’t been given the skills to go beyond the expectations that were set for you.

I was given the gift of learning easily from books and didn’t have to struggle in school precisely so that I could become a guide for those of you who weren't.

All it takes is for one person to recognize that you can stretch beyond your imaginary limitations. I'm here to be that person for you when it comes to all things education.

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Chelsea Torres