I didn’t know if I was going to like tutorials when I came to U of T. I’ve been notoriously known for not participating in class and it was never for any reason except for the fact that I preferred to listen rather than input my thoughts. When I received those syllabi for the first time, my heart dropped. How could participation in tutorials be worth 15% of my final grade? I dreaded going to that first tutorial because I had so many questions. What was a tutorial? What was a TA? How would I participate? What if I said something ridiculous? Never fear, I have the answers here (Ha, I rhymed).
Most people at U of T (and in life) will generally label themselves as either an “arts/humanities person” or a “math/science person”. Being able to pursue (or even have an interest in) both in equal measure certainly creates a lot of rewards, but it also comes with some unique challenges.
As someone who’s currently doing one arts major + one science major, I have learned that I definitely have to wire my brain differently for courses depending on whether they’re an arts course or a science course. Things like studying, taking notes, knowing what to expect from instructor-student relations are different enough in these two areas that sometimes I get caught off guard when I’m not being mindful of when I need to switch my brain from one mode to another.
You know that person in tutorial that is so articulate it hurts? They seem to have a rhythm when they speak, they never get lost in a train of thought, and they know how to hold everyone’s attention.
Does that person fill your heart, as it does mine, with equal parts envy and admiration? If so, read on.
For us, tutorial goes a bit like this:
“Should I put up my hand? Oh no, Mr. Perfect is talking now. He’s a tough act to follow; I’ll wait a few minutes. Waiting… Waiting… Oops, now we’re talking about something completely different. Back to the drawing board. Okay…. Okay… Got something… And she just said what I was thinking. No problem, I’ll think of something else. Thinking… Thinking… Blanking… Despairing… Five minutes left. Maybe I’ll talk next week. Oh wait! I have something! Too late now; my voice is weird anyway.”
At least, that’s usually how my internal monologue goes. I’m not very good at articulating my thoughts in tutorial-type settings; they make me feel extremely anxious and shy. I’m constantly afraid that I will forget what I meant to say in the middle of saying it, or that I will say something completely off the mark, or that I will forget how to speak altogether when everyone’s eyes turn to me.
I like to listen to my peers and I often gain really cool insights from their conversations. Sometimes, I like the way the conversation is flowing so much that I would rather not interrupt it with my own awkward contribution. Unfortunately, however, listening is not usually enough; we have to prove that we’re engaging with the tutorial to get full marks. Like it or not, we have to speak.
That is why I would like to share with you, my fellow Mr. Imperfects, the strategies I use to help me speak up in tutorial: