A few days ago, I got a call from my uncle, Jerry, asking me if I could tutor his daughter, my cousin, Tayler. Of course I agreed! According to my uncle, my cousin was feeling very frustrated with the material in the classroom and more at home trying to understand. So frustrated nearly to the point of tears. So she took some time to cool off and clear her head for about an hour.
When they came by my uncle visited with my family while I tutored my cousin on her assigned material in Geometry. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a very thorough, meticulous, and patient person when it comes to teaching and tutoring a student. Before we even started, she already benefitted from a couple of aspects of problem solving. First, she looked over the questions of her worksheets and attempted to complete the assignment . This is beneficial because she became aware of the challenge and realized she needed help. She also benefitted from her motivation to learn and understand rather than an unmotivated student who does not take the time to overcome the challenge and just asks for help without really doing any progressive struggling at all.
Another thing we both benefitted from as tutor and student is that we had a structure to work on. A broken structure but with guidance it would become a fixed, stronger structure; good as new. Teaching/tutoring is analogous to building a shed or a house.
Imagine you are learning to build a simple shed with the tools and supplies you are given and your building instructor is there with you to observe your independent progress. The concrete foundation is rough to look at; there’s spots that look right and there are spots where the concrete is completely missing where it should be. In addition, there are wooden beams placed by the student which are few in the right place, most in an awkward or wrong spot, and some construction has stopped because it’s unsafe to continue.
This is where the guidance of an expert comes in along with some playfulness and humor to keep things interesting. After we looked over the material my cousin needed to learn, this gave us a plan to follow:
- Reconstruct and fill in the gaps of her foundation
- (Her knowledge and understanding of the mathematical material)
- Reeducate her on the tools and resources she was given so she knows what they are
- (Lean what are: points, lines, planes, rays, segments, etc…, along with the similarities and differences)
- Demonstrate how to use the tools and resources toward a goal like correctly constructing beams for a wall
- Provide example problems and show how to construct, describe, and use each geometric concept)
- Demonstrate a way to help monitor yourself to know whether or not you are doing something correctly
- Have her demonstrate how to use the tools and resources toward a goal
- This time she tries out example problems I set
- Continuously check for understanding and correct misunderstandings
- Have her practice over and over until she’s ready to tackle the assigned problems
- Repeat this process each time and take note on any weak areas that continue to appear
- In this case, I kept a Word document open and continually added notes for her to keep and study
The end result is a renewed structure with a better foundation, properly constructed walls and such, and finally, the completed product/shed. In other words, after tutoring her on the material, she had a better understanding of the basics and learned how to use them properly in preparation for more lessons to come.
When we were done, I could tell that she felt a lot better about what she learned. She’s a bit shy and I’m sure being a teenager adds to her resistance in showing some emotions about her learning experience. So I figured I would check with her dad to help draw out some more feedback. The following image is a screen capture of a few messages sent between my uncle and me. This definitely adds to the satisfaction of being tutor and a teacher.