Month: July 2010

  • Yes, even a single typo, my friends...

    From The Week magazine, July 24, 2009:


    Bad week for:

    Carelessness, after more than one-fifth of business executives contacted for a survey said that a single typo on a resume or cover letter would cost an applicant the job. Common errors executives found included, "I'm attacking my resume for you" and "Dear Sir or Madman."


    Hire me or at least get a wordsmithy friend of yours to look over your resume AND your cover letter before you send it. 

    In fact, if you are a habitually bad speller, investing some money in customized tutoring, or having a standing account with a proofreader, is money very well spent. I can provide both services for you. Even if you get that job, please note there is a 20% chance that your boss will be extremely aggravated by your poor spelling when it keeps coming up.


    Here to serve...

  • "My tutor does my homework for me!"

    An innocent exaggeration to impress a friend, perhaps, but a rumor like this can destroy my credibility as a tutor or writing coach. As soon as I heard it I sought out key people on that campus in an effort to kill the rumor, to set the record straight, to accurately describe how I help the high school students I am tutoring.

    A tutor does work within some tricky constraints. The reason we are hired is to help a person receive better grades, and to the extent that a person's work improves under our care, we are praised... or sometimes accused.  Who really "did the work"? Parents, take note. You face the same pitfalls.*

    There are three ways any teacher can respond when their student is stuck: Give them the answer, Provoke the answer, or Require the answer.

    Giving the answer is appropriate when you are introducing new facts, new concepts, new processes.  It can also be appropriate when you are teaching via reminding, repeating the same key info so that it cuts a groove into their mind and settles there.  It is obviously not appropriate when you are assessing their mastery.

    Provoking the answer is appropriate when you are reviewing things they are familiar with but have not yet mastered.  It forces their mind to work, to make connections, to discover or rediscover a fact, act, or insight "on their own" to some degree, although you serve as the mental midwife to bring that thought to life in them. This is a far more sophisticated and powerful teaching strategy than simply giving the answer, but it requires a basic familiarity with the material, otherwise it simply provokes frustration rather than realization.

    Requiring the answer is simply assessment. This is the test. Do you know it? Can you do it? Do you grasp the correlations, implications, and subtleties at last? Done well, this gives both the student and the teacher a clear understanding of what has been mastered, what is yet shaky, and what was missed, so that the learning process can begin again in the most effective possible way.

    From a tutor's perspective, we want to get past "Giving answers" as quickly as possible, to move on to "Provoking answers" and "Requiring answers".  If we are not the primary teacher for the student, we assume they have been given the information already but need help either analyzing or synthesizing it: taking it apart to understand what exactly was taught, and putting it back together in their own words and in various contexts to establish their mastery of it.

    Even so, if in the process of Provoking and Requiring we realize that key facts, acts or concepts have been missed, then in order to move on, we must give them that information. Sometimes we must stop and drill that necessary information into them (a good tutor or teacher will have several creative ways to do this) before we can move on with more sophisticated instruction.

    In the process, especially if we are working with less mature clients, the learner will sometimes feel the tutor is "giving them the answers" to their homework.  In a way, this can be true: if they are unable to remember or discover those facts, processes or insights required to complete their homework, then either their teacher, their tutor, or their parent must remind them of those facts, review those processes, and lead them by the hand to those insights... or allow them to fail.

    Which in itself can be a valuable learning experience.

    *...especially homeschooling parents.