On Teaching and Tutoring (Part 4)

By:  Sam Blumenfeld
09/06/2012
       
On Teaching and Tutoring (Part 4)

 Good tutors learn a great deal from their students. Each student is different, requiring the tutor to be flexible, patient, and creative. I always enjoyed the challenge of a new student because it required much ingenuity on my part. And because I was being paid for my services, unlike the public schools which are "free," I had to show that my teaching was producing positive results. 

Good tutors learn a great deal from their students. Each student is different, requiring the tutor to be flexible, patient, and creative. I always enjoyed the challenge of a new student because it required much ingenuity on my part. And because I was being paid for my services, unlike the public schools which are "free," I had to show that my teaching was producing positive results.

One of the most challenging students I ever had was 14-year-old Neal Pulovsky, a 9th grader. On the day I started tutoring him in October 1975, I wrote the following in my journal:

Started tutoring 14-year-old Neal Pulovsky this morning. He is supposedly a little hard of hearing, but I could not detect any such impairment. He reads at a second grade level. No sense of letter sounds, no accuracy. Obviously he too was mutilated by look-say. Arithmetic is spotty. He has a good hand for writing but can’t write because he doesn’t know how. All he really needs is careful, intensive instruction. He confused b’s and d’s, m’s and n’s. But all he really needs is intensive phonics drill. With him nonsense syllables will be useful. He needs to hear and see the difference between vowel sounds. He has no knowledge of vowels at all. Often interchanges a’s and e’s, long a’s with short a’s. He was very pleased at the end of the session and wanted homework to do. He yawned continually because he had stayed up to watch the Jerry Lewis movie.

I told his mother that he should get a good night’s sleep before our tutoring sessions. As for his hearing problem, I suspected that it was classroom induced to provide an excuse for his not learning and his teachers not teaching. Neal was obviously the victim of pedagogic sloppiness, lack of precision and accuracy. And so, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Several sessions later I wrote:

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Sam Blumenfeld (photo)

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