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LJ Idol IX - 27. Open Topic (~600 words)

How Do Teachers Do It?

I have never wanted to become a teacher, for which I should possibly blame my first and only experience tutoring more than one person at a time.

I was a junior at college when an old classmate asked if I were interested in helping a small group of fifth graders who were starting to learn English do homework because the kids' parents had studied either French or German (the two other most popular foreign languages) and could not help them themselves.

I agreed and met with the four kids twice-weekly for a year and a half. At first, we went over their assigned homework and later, when their regular English teacher left and the school could not find another for several months, continued to muddle through on our own on the parents' insistence and despite my rather half-hearted protestations that I would not know what I would be doing and where I would be leading my charges, textbook and various grammar manuals or no. We kept working, learning some vocabulary and some elementary grammar.

I do not remember what put an end to the meetings and have regrettably long since lost sight of my little charges, and can only hope our lessons helped them in some way or another.

In these lessons, I was blessed (or cursed) with a very diverse group of students that made me wonder just how teachers "do it" with much larger numbers of children at once.

In my little class, I had and intuitive learner who did not apply almost any effort at all, reminding me strongly of myself at the same age, a not as bright but very hard-working kid who kept up with everything we did through elbow grease amazing in someone his age, a bored lazybones more interested in sports and games than in repeating the forms of the verb "to be", and a late bloomer whom his mother had already held back a year and sent to school together with his intuitive sibling, and who possibly should have been held back still more, for he obviously was not ready for the increased workload of secondary school.

Seeking a way to challenge all four at the same time was tough and constantly left me wishing I had each of them one-on-one before me.

The intuitive learner would have benefited from a mach faster pace than we could afford. She was almost ready to build her own phrases while the others were still mostly using clichés.

The hard worker would have perhaps thrived on a more academic and grammar-oriented approach.

The late bloomer would have blossomed into a beautiful flower if only he had a chance to keep up more than occasionally.

And the lazybones? He would not have been able to get away on snippets of knowledge he learned on the fly. I never quite got a feel of his level of talent, but I suspect it might have rivaled that of the intuitive learner if properly challenged in areas of interest to him, and not the general drivel of "What is the weather like today?" and "Who is absent or present".

I do not know how "real" teachers manage to find middle ground and keep everyone occupied or how they reconcile their love for the subject they teach with the inability to "reach" everyone in class, at least not on the level every individual student requires.

I respect them for their efforts, but find that the occasional one-on-one tutelage is the only way I am interested in sharing my own knowledge.


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 10th, 2014 10:05 pm (UTC)
ConCrit is welcome.
Nov. 13th, 2014 09:28 pm (UTC)
The first little bit should read "I have never wanted to become a teacher" ; French and German should be "the two other most popular foreign languages." If you're picky about the grammar in this one, anyway.

I feel bad for the lazy kid. I was a lazy kid. (...I still am a lazy kid.)
Nov. 13th, 2014 09:47 pm (UTC)
I try to be picky about grammar, but articles are my weak spot. The first was a typo and the second a mistake. Thank you!

I feel bad for all of them, as for the lazy one, I wanted to challenge myself to find something to challenge him with. :)
Nov. 12th, 2014 03:09 pm (UTC)
I would find it impossible for the same reason--although I don't think I would have been able to put my finger on what that reason was until you spelled it out.
Nov. 13th, 2014 09:41 pm (UTC)
Maybe there are approaches that allow teachers to work well, but I have never wanted to look deeper into it after that experience.

Thank you for reading.
Nov. 12th, 2014 06:48 pm (UTC)
In some ways I think four might be harder than 30, because you become so aware of what each kid's strengths are in a small group.

I briefly thought about teaching myself, but only very briefly.
Nov. 15th, 2014 03:51 pm (UTC)
This is an interesting point. I may have gotten very involved, yes.

Thank you!
Nov. 13th, 2014 04:33 am (UTC)
I can relate to this, not with teaching, as that is in my nature, but also one on one (okay, so, actually, yes, I CAN relate to it, some, though, I can teach larger groups, as well... I just don't), but, with a different profession. At some point, I just have to recognize that it's a respectable way to spend one's life, but the people who can pull it off are made of different stuff than me. I get this.
Nov. 15th, 2014 03:52 pm (UTC)
Yes, I agree.

Thank you for reading :)
Nov. 13th, 2014 08:09 am (UTC)
As much as you might never have wanted to be a teacher, the fact that you understand that there are such different styles of learning-- and how best one might approach them-- puts you ahead of many potential teachers!

The difference in learning styles is a challenge for a good teacher, and I think is also ignored by lesser teachers. When a student doesn't quite grasp something, some teachers will resort to using the same approach as before except "louder." If that ever works, it's because some amount of time passes and the student finally tumbles onto what's going on.

This would sure make you an excellent tutor, since you know and value these individual styles. I have a niece and BIL who are more "contextual" learners, and that's one of the more challenging styles. Taking slightly different approaches to best accomodate each student can make a world of difference, if only one does not have 30 of them at once!
Nov. 13th, 2014 03:05 pm (UTC)
You put it across well..though I have never thought anyone..but I am better at one on one interaction than a group discussion any day.
Nov. 13th, 2014 05:53 pm (UTC)
I've never wanted to teach for just that reason - I'm very thankful there are others who want to do it!
Nov. 13th, 2014 08:21 pm (UTC)
This is a problem I've always been keenly aware of in education --varying levels of ability and different temperament make it almost impossible for everyone to get the best tutelage for them. I could never be a teacher, either.
Nov. 15th, 2014 03:48 pm (UTC)
In what group were you as a student?

I was very often top of my class (in knowledge if not in marks) and sat there quietly bored trying not jump to answer every question and let others participate as well.
Nov. 14th, 2014 12:29 am (UTC)
It's a really difficult balance.
Nov. 15th, 2014 03:43 pm (UTC)
It is.

Thank you.
Nov. 14th, 2014 12:57 am (UTC)
My wife went to college to become a teacher, and once out in the field, she found it to be miserable and unrewarding, most of her time spent avoiding lawsuits because it was clear that teachers were the first ones under the bus. :(

She did like her kids, but she was teaching a younger crowd, and being from a poor area I think she was mostly worried about them.
Nov. 15th, 2014 03:46 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, there is a lot of that nonsense here as well. The most recent news I heard from my teaching friends was that it is not the teacher's fault if the student doesn't do his work, and the teachers are punished for failing marks! So they don't fail those deserve it anymore, and is that not wonderful...

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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