More Information for Prospective Tutors and Faculty:

What the Job of Psychoeducational Tutor Entails

Basic Details

First of all: OPT's psychoeducational tutors are not couselors, advisors, or advice-givers in any capacity.

     They are not licensed. They are not trained in clinical intervention. They are not practicing psychology or social work. They are not experts. They are tutors, trained to guide students through a specified curriculum.

Isn't mental health strengthening the whole point? 

     Yes, but mental health strengthening (or the development of positive functioning) is the point of lots of things that are not clinical or psychological per se! In a way, all skill building - even the more purely academic skill building - is intended to have mental health benefits (impacting confidence and competence, etc.), at least in theory. We just take things a step farther by also focusing on the more psychological or behavioral skills directly. 

The curriculum that teaches these psychological or behavioral skills is designed for use by non-professionals. 

     Unlike in some tutoring, OPT's tutors are not expected to come up with their own lessons or activities. They are not expected to contribute their own insights about the skills or the topics covered. Instead, they take turns reading things with their students, and they take turns in carrying out a variety of exercises. 

Does this mean that the tutoring is scripted? 

     No. It just means that the content itself is prescribed. And while tutors are trained in the methods of curriculum delivery (for example: how to do the exercises, how to read aloud in an engaging way, how to provide differential reinforcement, etc.), it is up to each tutor to decide what content is covered during each session, and how. Tutors have to call upon their own personalities and interpersonal skills in guiding their students through the curriculum effectively.

The specific work that tutor-student pairs do varies, pair-by-pair. 

    Some tutees are older (e.g. 13-16), and some are younger (e.g. 6-9); naturally, the work done will vary accordingly. Some tutor-student pairs focus more on early literacy skills, for example; some, on higher-level skills. 

Each tutor normally works with only one student, and the same tutor generally works with the same student, often for a year or more. 

     The occasional tutor will work with two students, but we do not generally recommend that tutors work with more than two students. This work, though short in duration, day to day, is exhausting. And things can become very complex logistically when the almost-daily sessions are expected to accommodate three or more schedules.

The curriculum we speak of is rather hefty, with lots and lots of words! Not many young students would be able to work through any of this on their own. But with the help, support, and reinforcement of a charismatic tutor, many are able to read and master lots of these books! 

Thus our tutors play an invaluable role: they bring our curricular readings and activities to life, making these activities fun and meaningful for our tutees. 

Tutoring sessions are 30 minutes each, and they are held 6, 5, 4, or 3 days per week. 

     The tutor calls the student at the appointed time each day, and the two carry out the tutor's selected activities for the day, often chatting, reading in some of the programmed manuals, and doing some exercises. All tutors are trained to keep track of their student's progress in some way; together, the tutor and student set goals and monitor progress towards these goals.

Tutors set their own appointments with their students' parents or guardians. 

    Most often, sessions are scheduled in the after school hours of 4-8. Tutors do not have to be available for this entire window, day to day, but some flexibility in this window is recommended if a long-term commitment is to be made. 

Tutors are asked to "commit" to a year's availability when they start with a new student.

    Tutees often become very attached to their tutors, and tutors' premature departure can be potentially harmful. We ask that tutors feel comfortable with the idea of at least a year or so of tutoring before they take on a new student, in an effort to protect our tutees. (Of course, employment with OPT is "at-will," meaning that tutors can terminate or be terminated at any point; there is no contract that makes tutors' commitments binding. But we hope that tutors will take the more long-term nature of their commitments seriously nonetheless.) Should tutors need to take a little time off for vacation, etc., we can usually provide substitutes.

Tutors receive supervision on at least a monthly basis (and more, as needed). 

    At the very least, tutors submit monthly reports of their tutoring activities, and they hold once-monthly phone consultations with a supervisor.

What kinds of people might find OPT to be the right fit?

All OPT tutors are paid $15 per hour. Some college student tutors are also recognized by their colleges with academic credit or school-endorsed internships.  

Tutoring with OPT is not a full-time job. It does not satisfy most financial need. But it does offer a chance to make a very real impact on a younger person's life. It does offer a chance for the development of a close, fun, one-on-one bond. It does offer a chance for very meaningful contribution. 

Our tutors typically have other things that occupy much of their lives - school, often, or other employment. But they have also made space in their busy lives for commitment to a younger person. And in the process they gain enormous experience in psychoeducation and educational methods. 

OPT's tutoring may be a great fit for those who:

  • Have curiosity about the human mind and human behavior.
  • Enjoy talking with children and hearing their thoughts about things.
  • Want to work closely with youth, to nurture individual potential, and to develop strong one-on-one bonds.
  • Can have fun being imaginative and creative, even goofy.
  • Are ready to approach big challenges with great enthusiasm, patience, and persistence. 
  • Value kindness and cooperation, positive interpersonal relations and nonviolence, joyousness and loyalty, frustration tolerance and self-discipline -- and want to help shape the world into a kinder, more cooperative, happier, less violent and more nurturing place.

OPT tutors give their two cents: “What would you say to potential tutors?”

Topics that tutor-student pairs study include:

  • Persistence and concentration. Keeping on paying attention to something for a long enough time to accomplish something.
  • Rational approach to joint decisions. Deciding rationally on stance and strategies.
  • Pleasure from your own kindness. Feeling good when you do something kind for someone else. 
  • Forgiveness and anger control. Forgiving other people, stopping being angry at them.
  • Delay of gratification. Doing without something fun now, to get something better later. 
  • Awareness of control. Accurately assessing the degree of control one has over specific events. 
  • Competence-development. Working at improving your abilities in schoolwork, games or sports, or work. 
  • Honesty. Being honest or dependable even when it is hard to do this. 
  • Empathy. Recognizing what other people are feeling about something.
  • Assertion. Being able to stick up for your own ideas or stick up for what you want. Painful emotion-tolerance. Handling feeling bad for a while, without feeling bad about feeling bad. 
  • Socializing. Having a good social conversation.
  • Purposefulness. Having a sense of purpose that drives activity. 
  • Literacy. Basic reading decoding, reading fluency, reading comprehension. 
  • Math. From math fact fluency to higher-level concepts. 
  • Pleasure from accomplishments. Feeling good when you accomplish something. 

The Job: Basic Logistical Requirements

Before committing to OPT, potential tutors must be prepared to: 

  • Make 30 minute calls from their own cell phones (or potentially, from google phone numbers, etc.) six, five, four, or three days per week. We do not fund tutors' cell phone plans or provide tutors with additional minutes.
  • Make these calls from quiet, private places with reliable cell service.
  • Schedule and uphold their phone appointments reliably, and without last minute changes or cancellations.  
  • Continue scheduling and upholding these appointments for months at a time, often for a year or more, without interruption (e.g., without periods of study abroad or international travel, etc.) and without abrupt change (e.g., without the sudden attainment of a new job that makes continued tutoring impossible). 
  • Maintain reliable contact with a supervisor, responding to all calls, emails, and other inquiries promptly. 
  • Do all of the above with little outside cajoling. OPT's tutors are very independent, setting their own schedules, recording their own hours, etc. Those who don't like such independence, or who need a lot of structure, may not find OPT to be the right fit.