A time of transition


This month I find myself in a professional in-between space.


After almost eight years of tutoring students, I am taking a step back from the work. I committed to working with a small number of students this year, without the intent of adding more students as the school year unfolds. I have three students right now, and I intend to work with them for the duration of the school year. This is the first time I have ever capped my capacity at such a tiny number!


It was difficult to arrive at this decision. I have always loved working with my students, and I’ve been fortunate to have the best students one could hope for. I have spent thousands of hours studying and prepping in order to serve my students; I’ve spent thousands more with my students, helping them work toward their goals, one step at a time. Tutoring is gritty, detailed work. It takes a lot of focused concentration, and that effort is what produces results. I know how to tutor now–or rather, I know how I tutor my students. My approach might not be for everyone, but it works for the students who pair up with me for an extended time period.


The 2021-2022 school year was an exceptionally difficult one for me. I was still reeling from the pandemic–the isolation, the stress, the sadness. My family and I were fortunate that we stayed safe and healthy; our privilege and good luck is not lost on me. But I started the school year in bad shape mentally and emotionally. As the school year progressed, I felt less capable of meeting my students’ needs than I anticipated. I was exhausted. I had a hard time with their scheduling needs; I felt unable to cope with cancelling and rescheduling sessions. To my mind, part of doing the work as a tutor is being available when students need to cancel and/or reschedule. In the past, I have had the flexibility I needed to bend to students’ needs. But now I’m a mom with a young child and a partner who depends on me to be…dependable. Having a chaotic work schedule was really starting to take its toll on me and my family. I started to crave more control over my work schedule. I needed consistent work hours and consistent income.


I pride myself on my ability to complete projects, so I continued my tutoring schedule until the end of the 2021-2022 school year. It’s the same advice I would give students: don’t give up in the middle. Complete things. Do it for your own sense of pride. Do it to prove to yourself that you can do hard things. So I did it, too. The school year came to a gentle close, and I took the summer off from tutoring.


Tutoring has long been my main gig as a self-employed person. I’m also a writer. This summer, I was hired for several writing projects, and I loved the work. After finishing these short-term writing projects, I was excited! I had an employer interested in hiring me for more writing work. It was time to transition into my new shiny writing career! Except…the new work hasn’t materialized yet. On top of that, one of my old writing gigs is probably on the chopping block. So now I find myself with no writing work and my handful of tutoring students.


To be quite honest, I am bereft. I know this too shall pass, but I’m just sad. Paul and I had set ourselves up quite well for me to make this career transition, which means we’ll be ready for what’s next when it arrives. But I’ve been at a loss as to how to process the difference between what I had hoped for and what has actually happened. Which brings us to this space, my little internet home.


Several years ago, I had started writing a book of my best tutoring tips. I wanted it to be as specific as possible. Such a book should capture the best, specific advice that I give to students and parents who work with me. I wrote a number of short essays for the book, but that’s as far as I got. Now I’ve decided to publish those essays on this site. If I feel motivated, I may eventually compile them into a book–perhaps a PDF that you can download to enjoy reading offline. (If there is interest in the PDF book form, do let me know in the comments below or send me an email at r-meissner@u.northwestern.edu.)


In the meantime, check back here in the next couple of days for my first post in the series! I’m excited.


Photo courtesy of Stepan Unar via unsplash.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *