I am hanging out at one of my favorite haunts, The Cup, in downtown Boulder, Colorado, sharing a table with a couple of guys who are working, laptop adjacent to laptop. From what I can glean, one of the guys is a tutor with a local group of some sort, while the other guy is either a senior in high school or a freshman at CU.
Yup, a buddy just stopped by and the tutor said “I’m tutoring, catch ya later” to his friend. So I’m right about their working relationship here.
What strikes me though is that there’s precious little learning or teaching going on here and that this relationship is much more characterized by the tutor dictating concepts to the student.
Now to be fair, I haven’t tutored someone in writing for a while (well, other than A-, my daughter, who I help with her writing assignments when she asks) but when I was in college at UCSD I was a writing tutor and can distinctly remember how we implemented the “teach a man to fish rather than giving them a fish” philosophy of the Bible.
It didn’t involve what I’m hearing right now from these two guys, and it makes me a bit sad for the guy who has hired a tutor hoping to learn how to write better, but instead is having someone tell him what to say, the points to make, the relevance of the key ideas in the essay, what order sentences should appear, etc.
If I could, I’d videotape 2-3 minutes so you could experience what I’m hearing, actually, because it’s so interesting to see how the tutor is so dominating the intellectual give-and-take of their interchange.
Tutoring, and teaching in general, is difficult and every parent has experienced trying to help their child with something just to have the child get frustrated, upset, and give up. Then, a few minutes later, they’re back working on it again, but typically solo, without your help. (or maybe this is just how my kids deal with things!)
After years of teaching, though, I know that involvement is critical. Not just saying “here’s the important point” or “here’s what you need to say in the essay” but rather the almost Freudian psychoanalytic probing questions of “so which of these do you think is the most important point?” and “what’s your key point? where do you come out and say that in your essay?”
Ugh. I can’t listen any more. Time for some headphones and some loud music.
But before I wrap this up, tell me, what’s your approach to helping your child or children learn new skills or abilities?