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reed magazine logoJune 2010

Sharpening Skills at the DoJo continued

When they get to Reed, however, they can’t fake it. The rigor of the curriculum exposes their weaknesses. They have to work hard—really hard—for the first time in their academic careers. The stress can even cause some students to suffer from what’s known as the “Impostor Complex.” They start to worry they are intellectual phonies, that everyone on campus is smarter than they are, and that they don’t deserve to be at Reed.

The mission of the DoJo is to restore students’ confidence and set them on a practical path to success. Through its outreach, the center aims to overcome any embarrassment that students, especially freshmen, may feel about seeking help. The key to this strategy is spreading positive word of mouth among students as well as professors, who plug the center in their classes and syllabi, reinforcing the idea that visiting the DoJo is not an admission of weakness—it is a sign of strength.

Biology major Kelsey Wood ’10 first went to the DoJo for help with organic chemistry—one of those legendary classes that generations of Reedies have spoken about in hushed tones. “I was stressing out more than I needed to be,” she says. “The problem sets weren’t straightforward, so it helped to discuss the problems with other people. I wasn’t having such a hard time, but I wanted to solidify my understanding.”

tutoring

from left: Tutor Marjorie Nicholson ’10 works on a paper with Alanna Lynn ’13.

PHOTO BY ORIN ZYVAN

Kelsey’s experience at the DoJo was so productive that she is now a tutor, spending several hours a week helping her peers with chemistry, biology, and science writing. She says being a tutee (and attending the center’s procrastination workshop) made her a better tutor and a better student.

“I know what the students are looking for, what they’re going through,” she says. “I try to keep things positive.” A good tutor, she notes, “is there to guide the tutee’s thinking, so they can solve things themselves.”

Kelsey plans to go to graduate school and envisions herself teaching one day. “I just love learning,” she says. “You learn so much as a teacher. You hear that a lot, but it’s true.”

The DoJo came into being in 2007 through the consolidation of existing tutoring programs (the mathematics department still runs a separate tutoring center out of the Hauser Library). Locations, schedules, and policies varied widely under the old system, confusing and frustrating students seeking assistance. The DoJo hosts drop-in sessions in a range of subjects, with physics, chemistry, and writing (in that order) seeing the highest demand.

The typical tutees who come to the DoJo “are a little anxious if they haven’t been here before. It can be hard for smart folks to ask for help,” says Julie Maxfield, the center’s on-site academic support coordinator. They might need tips on taking notes or organizing a paper. They might be suffering writer’s block. “Sometimes,” she adds, “folks are just looking for a confidence boost, a sense that they’re on the right track so they can stop freaking out.”

Reed doesn’t offer courses such as “physics for poets” or “poetry for physicists,” so students often seek tutoring for coursework outside their majors. Chemistry majors come to the DoJo to go over their philosophy papers and philosophy majors come to review their chemistry lab assignments. Sometimes tutors will switch tables to get help themselves in a different subject.

reed magazine logoJune 2010