October 2012. Amalthea was a success and I was super-confident of achieving anything and most certainly, I thought I could manage a couple of students. I, thus joined the PAL program (Peer Assisted Learning), with a hope of helping my juniors and getting some money. For those of you who don’t know what PAL is, it is a program where seniors are allotted students from BTech 1st year and the seniors are expected to guide them through their academics. Not teach them per se, but teach them how to acclimatise, how to learn on their own, how to be a part of the community while not compromising academics.
In January, as the sessions were taking place, I realized that I could not connect to one of the two. He would never come on time, not talk properly or listen to what I taught. They needed help in Math and I was not good at it. I called a friend to help them and while this guy was teaching, the student left the room and started talking on his cell for a long time. I was devastated. I could not get him to study, or even behave courteously. Lesson learned: Not everyone will do as I say. I can’t force things on people. A month later, the inevitable happened. He had flunked several courses and now he was terminated and my confidence was shattered!
August 2013. I put that behind me somehow. I thought this year would be better. And it was. Both my students were more friendly and open and put in serious efforts. Though they did not perform very well academically, they were still there. I seemed reasonably satisfied with my job.
August 2014. This time, I was allotted 3 students and with my recent success, I thought I could manage this. I was helping the students and they were working hard. We were struggling big time with academics, but things were still okay. End of November, one student of mine from the 2013 batch was sent home for a year, because he had been cheating regularly in his exams. I was broken. I could not help him. He had to stoop to such measures even after me guiding him for one year. He did not trust me enough to tell me his issues. I had failed. Again.
December 10, 2014. I received a message from one student from the present lot. “I was about to drop a particular course. Had you not motivated me to try and give it a shot, I would have dropped it for sure. But, because of you I didn’t and I passed. Thanks.” This cheered me up beyond any measures. I thought that two failures probably taught me enough to garner at least one success. This feeling of satisfaction was so blissful. Only, life does not stay the same. Something terrible happened and I failed again and in a spectacular manner and for the last time, because this was my last chance.
Three years have passed and I have failed in my efforts with all the three batches. I have learned several things on my way, but the results have been gloomy every single time. This program has been significantly more difficult than any other activity that I have attempted in my college life. Maybe, it is not my fault, but I can’t help but hold myself at least partially accountable for what has happened. And that feels terrible.
To make it even worse, every year there are several students who need help but there are so few tutors who show up for the PAL program. Kabeer sir and I sit with the list in our hands, looking at it helplessly. Even though we wish to help these students, we can’t. Firstly, the tutors themselves may or may not be able to help the students and secondly there are so few tutors. It hurts so bad to see several students struggling through their first year, without any guidance. I wish that the seniors understand, that these are people with real problems who need help right now and we can help them, all they need is a couple of hours every week.
I go out knowing that I have not been a good tutor, but maybe with this article I can motivate a few of you to take this job up and that would be my redemption. I hope that Kabeer sir does not face the same predicament next August.
— Originally published on Palantir, IITGN on 30th August, 2015