I’ve been reflecting on so-called ‘what went wrong’ for my previous tuition students. Yes, of course, they too had their part to play in their grades and I shouldn’t take full responsibility for it, but upon thinking back, I realise that as a tutor, I was too ‘Drill and Practice’ and not consciously using materials that would engage them and motivate them to improve their language.
Apart from the a series of sessions where I really prepared a collection of articles for an expository essay, most of my tuition sessions were simply practising functional writing, essay writing and comprehensions because I wanted to equip them with exam techniques.
This week, I decided to do something different with my tuition student. Initially I wanted to ask him to write an essay for me, guided of course by me. Somehow a spark came to me as I went for tuition and I told him to take the newspaper and read the forum section.
The valuable resource of Newspapers!
I told him to read two letters and to summarize the main arguments for me in those letters. We went thru the letters together, checked out the words he didn’t understand and evaluated and rephrased certain parts which were more difficult to understand.
I asked him to pick out details which he felt were important and to tell me why. It went beyond merely teaching summary skills but teaching the rationale behind why we summarize. I highlighted to him that he already has awareness of how to summarize and should not let exam questions daunt him.
Then we discussed the issues inside the letter and I asked his opinion on some matters (the forum letters were a complaint letter about a bus driver and one on increased funding for sport in Singapore). I felt that I was teaching him no longer just comprehension skills, but reading skills and how to be a sensitive and responsive reader to materials in the media.
And as I ended the lesson, I realise that yes, this is what was missing from my previous tuition sessions – engagement with real world texts that would motivate my students to learn. At the end of the lesson, what he gained was not just a language lesson, but also a greater awareness of the issues pertaining to Singapore. And that is infinitely more valuable than drill and practice comprehension – though I do not deny that has its place.
That being said, it is not easy to always find such interesting and engaging material and to know how to use it meaningfully, but I must really make the effort and give what I can to my student, so that he can benefit from the time we spend together.
Of course my motivation also “increased” after receiving a very generous red packet from his mum! Haha… God is good!
Continuing in the vein of education revelations, I met my cell leader for dinner yesterday. Though it was not a long time of fellowship, but it was truly a quality time of fellowship.
Yesterday he shared with me about resonance, about striking a chord that resounds and echoes.
He was sharing with me about how he has learnt thru his school experience that education is relationship and that students will study for you, but that is what he has seen from a tail-end school and what I will see in NJC might be different.
He shared with me that every school has a different educational resonance and even different department have a different resonance. It is a means through which the school engages the students and ensures that learning takes place. He shared with me that finding out the resonance of your particular school takes time and sensitivity but you need to find that out, so that you, as a teacher, can flow too with the vision of your department and your school and create an educational experience that will resonate not just with your students, but with the whole school.
It was interesting food for thought, definitely. My leader teachers in a lower end school (now moving up to a mid range school) and his wife teaches in a higher end school. Together, I believe they have a very balanced perception of what education entails along the whole spectrum. I have so much to learn from them in this journey of education! 🙂