You’re Failing At Tutoring

, , , , | Learning | December 7, 2017

(I work as a tutor at a tuition centre. Our main feature is that we offer personalised learning on a student level, as each student has a unique mindset and thinking style. Students can either come to one of the few centres or be taught at home. The price is higher to be taught at home, but they can skip the centre’s pre-lesson activities. The bulk of parents sending their kids to these centres are from the low to middle-class end of the income spectrum, because the big boss, having come from humble beginnings himself, offers huge discounts. This happens rather frequently to the receptionists, who speak the most with the parents.)

Receptionist: “So, you are unhappy that your child is not improving.”

Parent: “Yes! I didn’t pay such a high price and send him so far away from home just to get nothing!”

Receptionist: “According to what his subject coaches and the student said, he improved from Fs in his class tests to a high C in his post-break exam. That is quite an achievement.”

Parent: “Well, he should be getting As or at least top in his class!”

Receptionist: “Ma’am, that’s impossible. He was failing all of his tests before he started here. It is very unlikely that he can jump to an A. It takes time—”

Parent: “Ugh! You’re useless! Anyway, what’s with all these ‘pre-lesson’ activities? They don’t help my child learn at all!”

Receptionist: “Well, we can always skip those activities by having the coach come to your home—”

Parent: “Well, do it then!”

Receptionist: “—for another $75 a month to cover their transportation fees.”

Parent: “Well, I guess it’s fine if my child continues going here. Just do less of the pre-lesson what-nots!”

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When Sax-ing Is Taxing

, , , , , | Learning | September 5, 2017

(I sometimes volunteer my time to teach kids how to play the saxophone. I’ve been playing the instrument for almost seven years, and have learned many music techniques. I am helping a kid, who’s about thirteen years old, with the basics of playing, and up until now she has been very polite to me.)

Me: “All right. The first thing to do is to press these two fingers down for A for four counts.”

Kid: “SHUT UP! I know how to play this instrument.”

(She then takes the saxophone from me and begins to play the wrong notes.)

Me: “That’s not the right note. You need to press down those—”

Kid: “I KNOW how to play! I bet you don’t even play this instrument!”

Me: *trying to stay polite* “Actually, I’ve played for many years and—”

Kid: “LIAR!”

Me: *still trying to stay polite* “I can assure you that—”

(Before I could finish the sentence, she threw the saxophone at my head and stormed out, talking about quitting this instrument and music altogether. Luckily, she had terrible aim, but the sax was extremely damaged. We had to call her parents in order to repair it. Sadly, they were just like her, though we did get them to repair it eventually.)

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Stifling Synonyms

| Learning | July 24, 2017

(I’m helping a ninth grader with an essay she received a poor grade on. It’s easy to see why; the paper is filled with awkward phrasing like, “the battle instigates when Napoleon convinces the other animals to fight,” “propaganda contains a lot of drawbacks,” and “Napoleon’s war plans accord with Stalin’s brilliant military strategy in real life.”)

Me: “So… there are some good ideas in here, but your syntax is a little hard to understand. See how your teacher marked ‘awk’ in certain places?”

Student: “Yeah, but I don’t really get what she means when she says it’s awkward.”

Me: “You know, when I was in school, I had this friend who didn’t think she had a strong enough vocabulary, so she relied on a thesaurus to try and make her essays sound more impressive. But a lot of the time, she didn’t fully understand the words she was using — whether they took an object, or had a certain connotation — and it actually hurt the clarity of her writing.”

Student: “Oh…” *blinks, tilts her head thoughtfully* “Yeah, I do that.”

Me: “I kind of figured.”

Student: “So I should stop using a thesaurus?”

Me: “Well, you need to use words you know. If that means using a simpler word to be safe, sometimes that’s what you’ll have to do. If you do use a synonym, look it up in a sentence to make sure it’s actually what you want. And…”

Student: “Yes?”

Me: “Maybe don’t talk about Joseph Stalin being ‘brilliant’? Just a thought.”

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Are You Sure Is A Sure Fire Way

, , , | Hopeless | June 28, 2017

While I am in college, I do some occasional tutoring. One thing I do, as did people who taught me when I was younger, is ask “are you sure?” when I am shown an answer that I know is incorrect. On occasion, I do the same with a right answer and the student will go back and check the work.

I have one girl as a student who is failing algebra and her parents agree to hire me. She makes some steady progress in school, but still struggles. I play that little are-you-sure game with her from time to time. One day, I give her a problem, she works it, and gives me the result. I ask her “are you sure?” Without the slightest hesitation or move to check her work she said “yes!” Something in her clicked and she had the confidence to know she had it right. Bam! From that point forward, she is getting straight A’s on homework and tests. Seeing someone excel like that is a thrill I never forgot. As I concluded writing this, I searched for her name on Google and found her on LinkedIn. She completed her bachelor’s degree and is a successful businesswoman.

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Needs To Be Tutored In The Art Of Giving A D*mn

, , , , | Learning | June 12, 2017

(I work as a freelance math tutor. One day, I meet my client for an appointment and have the following exchange:)

Me: “I see you’re going to [Local Community College]. Which class are you taking?”

Student: “I don’t know.”

Me: *assuming maybe he forgot the name of the class* “Ok, do you have the book?”

Student: “No.”

Me: “Well then, do you happen to have the syllabus?”

Student: “No.”

Me: “Then why did you set up this appointment?”

Student: “No, that was my uncle.”

(I just left at that point.)

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