Last week I wrote about the difference between a student’s perception about wasting time learning computer things and the concept of investing time. That piece was about the benefits coming to students who make an effort to learn some basic skills rather than just repeat by rote those actions that can get their e-mail, but it overlooked the other half of the student/teacher interaction.
Several instructors wrote to me in response to my overlooking the time they spend – or rather, invest. I should have added that tutoring seniors might not be a dollars-wise good investment, but it is not a waste of time, either. On the contrary, tutoring is very much an investment with payoff in the quality of life of tutors.
I’ve said many times in this series that one should not expect to make much money tutoring seniors. If a person expends considerable time both in learning how to tutor and in actually tutoring without earning much fiscal compensation as a result, how can that be considered an investment? Since tutoring is not like the investment of time and money to go to school and earn a degree which will assure you a high-paying job the rest of your life (!), how can I seriously suggest that tutoring is an investment?
In the first place, a tutor can earn some income, but it will not likely be enough to support a family. Another consideration is that it is a form of public service. I’ve not done a formal survey, but in my experience, most tutors are volunteers. Some teach classes in churches or senior centers for free and charge for private lessons. Many are recent students who are passing on the knowledge they only recently obtained themselves. This is obvious in classes and user groups in senior centers, libraries, and churches. Being part of that process can be a real high. Seeing isolated seniors learn how to communicate with friends and relatives from their own room is a benefit.
Another way a tutor’s investment of time pays off is by becoming part of a larger group of interested users. I’ve learned new tricks and found interesting URLs from my clientele. Occasionally a client will upgrade equipment and donate an old monitor or computer to me. Several of these have been refurbished and ended up in a new home with a child who would not otherwise have a computer. (Note: I really don’t keep these discards. It’s not that I’m unselfish; it’s that I don’t have enough room, and we already have enough computers in the house – more computers than guns, and that is saying a lot for a typical American family – besides, my personal computer is already packed with accessories.) And since tutoring individuals implies working on their machines, my skill and speed at debugging and maintaining random configurations has increased greatly.
Since tutoring is not likely to become a full-time endeavor, for some people it is essentially a hobby/public service/part-time job that can simultaneously be fun, rewarding, and profitable. Even allowing for the not-fun times, cranky clients, and mysterious computer maladies that clients expect you to fix on a moment’s notice, this sounds like a good investment to me.
For more in-depth tips on tutoring seniors, see the complete tutorial here. I also have posted a tutorial on elementary decision theory for those who might question a physician’s diagnosis (important for seniors) or anti-terrorist activities (important for everyone) but haven’t had the framework to analyze the data. That tutorial can be found here.