When I first took Greek and Hebrew in undergrad I didn’t do very well. There I said it. No, my grades weren’t horrendous, but I didn’t learn the language. I sat through the class miserable, because I failed to do simple things that would have helped me. I failed to understand myself. I wasn’t honest about what it took for me to learn something that difficult. Furthermore, I also lacked the work ethic to seek help.
Unfortunately, this was symptomatic of a lifelong struggle. For the majority of my life, I have struggled with the reality that things just don’t come as easy to me as they do for other people. I have always just been “average” so to speak. I often don’t do well with open response questions, as if I experience some sort of random aphasia when asked a question in class. I always need reinforcement from different mediums when learning new concepts: video, audio, reading, and visual illustration. I just simply need more time and work when doing difficult things. This troubled me when I was younger and struggling to learn Greek and Hebrew was a serious blow to my confidence: “I’m just not that smart” replayed in my head for a long time. However, because of God’s grace in Christ, over time I have been able to find my identity in Jesus and not in my achievements or others opinions of me. God requires faithfulness, not perfection and that is good news.
Perhaps you are like me. You find yourself struggling with learning new ideas and realize that this is not necessarily due to lack of desire or work ethic. So how might we pursue faithfulness when learning difficult things? What we simply need is a little bit help. With this in mind, I want to encourage students like me to consider exploring the possibility of finding a tutor. Yes, a tutor. Finding someone who has mastered your subject can create great community and help assist you in learning. After all the best learning is done in community!
When I got to SEBTS I was eager to take another stab at the biblical languages. However, this time around I knew more about myself. So, when I heard that a PhD student was offering free tutoring for Greek 1 & 2 students, I seized the opportunity. For two semesters we met weekly and hashed out the concepts, which were foggy in my head. This experience allowed me to go into class with a much greater chance of actually learning the material! The long and short of it is this- I am now in take Greek exegesis courses on Ephesians and 1 Timothy and doing quite well. I still make mistakes, mental errors, and still have to reinforce concepts that come easier to others-but I am learning the language! This is not to mention the fact that I gained a new friend who still finds ways to encourage me even now.
After this experience I have decided to do the same thing for Hebrew. Actually my Hebrew tutor couldn’t meet this week because he is visiting schools in Israel to potentially study Hebrew linguistics (I may have found the right guy for the job!). Here at SEBTS we have a killer MA in Old Testament program, which makes finding a Hebrew tutor quite easy.
So, if like me you have often found yourself struggling with difficult things, believing the lie from Hell that you’re stupid, or just want to get better, hear me now- find a tutor! There is no shame in getting help, ever.
Words of advice as you pursue finding a tutor:
- Pray- Ask God to provide the resources you need to accomplish your task.
- If possible find someone who is a Phd student as a tutor. They simply have been in your field longer.
- If a PhD student is not available, find someone doing a research degree in that field (like my Hebrew tutor.)
- If neither of these options are available, be observant and find the best student in your class. Attempt to build a relationship so that you can study in community.
This is no quick fix. Learning difficult things takes a great amount of work. However, what worth learning has ever been easy? You are going to make mistakes. You will have bad days. However, if you are learning in community there will always be someone there to encourage you to keep working. At the end of the day- some of us just need a little help and that is ok.