Friday, September 09, 2011

What I have learned that I did not know.

            Some of the things I learned are easy to identify.  I learned that “instructor,” in the folder means their professor not me.  I learned that you have to type in a w before their number in the computer or it will not work.  I learned that the tutees always come in waves and not in a steady stream.  Many of the other things I have learned are less tangible, or at least harder to describe.  I was surprised by the number of ESL students that came in.  After a particularly long session spent with one ESL student, I realized that not only had I been teaching and not tutoring, but I had been teaching way too much. The student was assigned to write a short twelve-sentence paragraph about cell phone etiquette.  I soon found myself discussing the sources and quirks of several linguistic structures, passing into the history of English as a language, and expounding on the delicate balance between voice and dialect.   I caught myself and when the next ESL student came with the same assignment, I was able to take a more direct approach.  I began by asking a few more questions about the assignment.  It turns out the professor was trying to teach the correct use of a few words: because, also, another, and besides.  With this goal in sight it was easier to give the student valuable help. 
            In class we learned that it is easy to take over a session when you are the one writing, but sometimes I found it hard to avoid.  Tutees actually asked me to write out what I was saying so they could remember it later.  One of the tutors taught me a useful trick. An excuses such as, “my hand writing is real bad, so if you write it yourself you’ll be able to understand it better later,” can come in handy. 
            In the workshops I learned that it is important to take suggestions.  After teaching the workshop three times I still had not come up with a good way to remember the difference between fourth and forth.  Finally someone shouted out, “and fourth has the number four in it.”  Oh yeah!  When I first started teaching the workshops I did not realize that the students had already covered a lot of this material in class and that they already had some good memorization tricks. 
            Overall I learned to go slow and watch where I am going.  I think I was so excited the first week that I rushed through and made simple mistakes.  The student’s time is valuable but if we rush through too fast then their time is wasted. 

Shaun Conner


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