Carnegie Mellon University

IV. Cultural Sensitivity & Awareness

Our world is vast. While tutoring, you will probably be working with students who have different backgrounds than your own. Our differences help to create the dynamic, exciting, diverse world that we live in. However, it is important that as tutors, we are sensitive to the differences that each of us has, and do not let this get in the way of our tutoring.

Here are some guidelines that can help us, as tutors, to be more culturally sensitive and aware:

  • Be aware of your own biases and prejudices. We all hold cultural misinformation based on our education, history, access to information, and exposure to other types of people. It’s our job as tutors to be aware of these so that we can value diversity. Read books, watch documentaries, ask questions!
  • Take the time to listen to your students. Ask questions that might help you to better understand where your student is coming from.
  • Don’t make assumptions. Your student’s race, ethnicity, culture, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status are in no way a predeterminate of their abilities or perspective. Many different belief systems can exist within one specific culture.
  • Find common ground. Often there are many parts of our lives that we have in common outside of race, ethnicity, culture, religion, etc. Talking with students about their interests and academics is a great way to make connections and build healthy tutor/student relationships.
  • It’s okay to have differences! We don’t all have to believe the same things in order to have great peer and student/tutor relationships. Remember that no matter what the differences, we all share the common goal of helping students, which is why we signed up to be tutors. Be aware and interested in learning about your student's background if the topic comes up.

Developing cultural sensitivities is an ongoing process. We are constantly learning and changing and growing, and it’s okay to have questions or concerns. If you have worries about your belief system or someone else’s, talk to your group’s leader or a faculty member. They will be able to help.