Friday, April 22, 2011


Some days I love tutoring. Some days I dread it.

My 10th grade student has just finished a literary analysis paper on Julius Caesar, and we've worked on it together for an hour and a half at least two days a week for the past several weeks. I've never read the play in its entirety. And, unfortunately, neither has she. By the time we began working on her final draft, I knew the play better than she did.

This is how our sessions go:

Me: So Brutus had good intentions when he killed Caesar but comes to realize that he'd brought upon Rome the very thing he was trying to prevent--tyranny. Right?

Student: [opens her eyes] Uh-huh

Me: So you can write that kind of thing as the "take-home lesson" for your final sentence.

Student: [stares into space for several moments]

Me: Are you going to write yet?

Student: I don't know. This is hard!

Me: What do you mean hard? I've practically just told you... Okay, we've been talking about Brutus' intentions, right?...

I've been tutoring for over five years now, and I'm still figuring out how to walk the tightrope between leading a student through the learning process and teaching her how to learn for herself. This particular student is "normal" scholastically. The problem which worries me is that the "new normal" seems to mean giving up when actual work is involved and sliding through on curved grades, barely passing.

If students don't like what they're doing, they don't put any effort into it. We all did this to some extent, I'm not gonna lie. No generation of kids has been predominatly and virtuously hard-working.

But this new normal scares me. I'm a tutor. I'm supposed to be there to give my student extra attention and instruction where the teachers of large classrooms can't. But what if the student won't accept my extra attention and instruction? What if in her eyes I'm just an extra person to spoon-feed her what she needs to get by?

School hasn't been about the skill of learning for quite a while now. It's been about passing state assessment tests, SATs, and graduating. I don't blame the teachers, the parents, or any particular entity. I'm really not sure where the root of my frustration lies.

I'm sure anyone who cares about helping this generation learn feels the same way at times. I wonder, too, whether I'm guilty of romanticizing my youth in comparison with today's generation. Like, you know, how as one generation gets displaced by a younger one they think the bunch of whippersnappers will carry the world to hell in a handbasket. Am I one of those?? God, I hope not.

But I feel better venting about it.


  1. agreed. they do give up when something is hard. even 4 year olds who dont want to learn how to write their name beacuse 'its hard!'

    oh well. do it anyway!

    yes, it is hard to draw the line of making them learn it and not do it for them

  2. Wow. You have touched on a scary subject. It is a desperate situation getting more desperate every year.
    They haven't taught students how to study in public schools for at least 30 years. There is no interest anymore in the quest to new and exciting discoveries. The kids learn whatever on TV and playing games,etc. There are so many distractions to the old norm to the way kids learn. Maybe if all their text books, workbooks, etc. were put on computers or IPads or some form of games they would be more interested in learning. School (learning) is too much ho-hum. DISinterested.