Interview with Austine Yapp

Austine Yapp, an undergrad tutor from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), is a featured tutor on teachnlearn. Austine is currently on a scholarship specialising in computer engineering. Hear about his unexpected journey as a tutor.

We heard that you are an accidental tutor. Tell us more.

During my Secondary days, I helped a friend who needed some pointers with his homework. He ended up engaging and paying me for peer tutoring! Then in junior college, my teacher appointed me as the go-to person for questions. I guess my teacher and friend saw something in me that I did not even know at that point; the gift of teaching.

How do you make a subject like Physics and Chemistry interesting to your students?

For Physics, I give a lot of real-life examples. Take for example, ‘forces’. It can be applied to everything in life. Without friction, we cannot walk. When they begin to realize how physics applies to life, they get the ah-ha moment and learning becomes easy.

In relation to Chemistry which is more technical in concepts, my students understand that formulas are not the answers, but a means to the answer. Yes, memorization is needed at times, but it becomes purposeful memorization.

Some parents might deem you as too young and inexperienced to be an effective tutor. Thoughts?

Yeah, I have encountered some parents ith such ideas. Often, there is a difference between what the students want and what the parents want. Many parents want tutors with relevant teaching experience or ex-MOE teachers. However, the key about effective tutoring is that the tutor needs to be able to apply and link the concepts to different subjects that students are learning in school. The benefit a younger tutor brings on board is their ability to relate to the students, to give practical school tips and to communicate at a student’s level.

I am fortunate that most of the parents I work with are very supportive of my tutor role. Plus, there are enough testimonials to proof that it does not take an MOE graduate to improve student’s grades.

How has online tutoring work for you?

My first impression; innovation and interesting concept! Here’s my story. I learnt about teachnlearn during my exchange program in Russia. Russia is 5 hours behind Singapore. So, when I had my first student from Singapore, it was lunch time in Russia which was perfect! Online tutoring enables me to teach as if I have never left Singapore!

It took me a few lessons to get used to the online tools. But students these days have e-notepads, so it only makes sense to use the tools they have!

What gets you going as a tutor?

This might sound cliché… I get immense satisfaction when my students ‘get’ the topic. The moment when they understand and are able to explain the concepts confidently, my job is done.

How do you juggle being a tutor and undergrad student? What does a typical day look like for you being an undergrad tutor?

I will wake up early every morning to prepare for classes and tutorials. In the evenings depending on the day, there will be CCA or other ad-hoc events. I make time to tutor, and at times, I need to reschedule my plans to suit the students’ lessons.

Any words of advice for students who are thinking of tutoring?

You need to know what you are doing. It’s a big responsibility because you are influencing another student’s life. You are taking his time as much as your time. The reason to tutor should always be to teach and to impart, rather than earn a quick buck.


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