Entering into new and foreign situations is understandably nerve-racking as you do not know what to expect and the unknown can be scary. Often times we prefer to experience new situations with people we know, people we can turn to when we need a source of familiarity. The phrase “safety in numbers” is used to describe situations in which it could be dangerous for people to split up and venture out on their own. I’d like to modify that phrase and think about the concept of “comfort in numbers,” or when people find they are more comfortable in a new situation when they are with people they already know.
I started thinking about this more when a group of four students came to one of my walk-in sessions at the same time. They all had the same assignment, but they each had individual, personalized stories within that assignment. Considering this was the first week of tutoring and they all were sitting at my table before I even had a chance to put up my sign (they showed up before I even did), I was stressed and overwhelmed to say the least. Only a minute had passed in my two-hour long walk-in, and I was already ready to leave. But I didn’t because sometimes you just have to stick out difficult tasks.
I helped the students the best I could, and I helped another student from a different class who came in shortly after, and after the two hours were over, I went home and tried to process what had just happened. Never before had four students come up to me at once. Why did this happen, especially during the first week of classes? This is when I started thinking about the comfort in numbers concept. None of these students had ever been to tutoring before, and they were likely nervous or intimated (like I was when I attended a tutoring session for the first time). I believe that they chose to attend my walk-in together because it was more comfortable knowing they were going into a new situation together. They knew they were not alone.
After I started thinking about that experience with this frame of mind, I became less overwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, I would definitely prefer to not be inundated with that many students at once during a walk-in again, but I understood why that happened. I believe that the best thing we can do in the future is to fully educate students on the Learning Center and what it has to offer, allow them to perhaps observe other tutoring appointments to know what to expect, and remind them to not wait until the last minute to visit a tutor, as that can create a large pile-up of tutees and a stressed out tutor.