The Conversations, Not The Homework, Make The Biggest Difference

Shannon Bauer
Professional Tutor, Learning Commons

Each semester brings a new group of students who come with their challenges and surprises.  Sometimes life happens.  Sometimes they just didn’t know services or options exist.  This semester, I have been working with “A” at least once a week.  I first met him Fall 2019 when I was embedded in a principles-level class he was taking.  I usually sat in the back of the room during lecture portions, because it allowed me to observe what the students were really doing on the other side of their laptop screens.  He stuck out to me because he did not have the distraction of a laptop, often appeared to not be paying attention, yet he had a decent grasp on what had been covered. Unlike most who seemed otherwise occupied during lectures, he would ask questions when working on in-class exercises and problems.  He started coming into the Learning Commons initially to pass time between classes, but soon discovered another family in our business group.  The coronavirus then arrived, not only moving all of us virtual, but changing every aspect of our lives, including study habits.

I was pleasantly surprised to see him appearing on my virtual schedule this semester.  He mentioned he did not understand why he was taking a required class this semester.  In talking to him, I discovered he was in a certificate program, which was why he was taking different classes from what he had seen watching our business group interact with other students and different than what classmates from his first semester were currently taking.  He said he chose the short program, to be able to upgrade his employment, and did not think he could get a job working in that area without a degree.

Recently, instead of learning Excel concepts, we spent one of his appointments discussing different places my coworkers and I have worked, and what it takes to get to those types of positions.  I also offered to have a coworker join us to share his background so “A” could see other options available to him, along with helping change fears of race holding him back. “A” had been ready to give up on a class project when these conversations took place.  By bringing our Learning Commons family together, he found a new motivation to finish the project along with a new plan for his future. These small but life-changing moments are how everyone in my department knows we have made a difference each day.