Tutor Tales, Volume 33
This post is all about my eleven-year-old tutee Skid Breaker, who moved to the Philippines one year ago for the sake of his English.
He still struggles with the language today--particularly with the level of reading comprehension expected from him in his fifth grade classes. He's not very verbal to begin with, but I'd say his biggest hurdle is an inability to step back and watch himself when he's learning.
A few weeks ago, he was having an awful time with a lesson on long and short vowel sounds. He simply couldn't tell the difference between them, even when he said the words aloud, and had resorted to guessing. (At least when you have only two possible choices, you have a 50% chance of getting the right answer!) And I couldn't understand why he wasn't hearing the difference, when the contrasts were as plain as day to me. We were both getting really frustrated when it suddenly hit me that the problem was that he wasn't seeing them. The English alphabet and Korean characters are very, very different, after all.
So different, that I had to film another (horrible, terrible, awful, etc.) video to show you what I mean.
My hair doesn't always look this bad.
Long A and short A were just the beginning. I got him to do the same thing for all the other vowel sound pairs, and soon he was getting perfect scores on all the drills I made for him.
Now, I was able to watch him learn because I was right there with him; and I think this post lets even those who've never met him see a bit of the same process. This is insight into the way his mind works when it's up against slippery sounds, clumsy characters, and words he's suddenly supposed to hear but not to comprehend.
What I really want to do for him--and for everyone I tutor--is to lead him to the same knowledge of how his own mind works. If he can figure out how to learn something on his own, then he won't need me. But the best tutors are those who can make themselves redundant. Thank goodness I'm not that great, then. ;-)
But I did get a progress report of my own just this evening . . .
All smiles upon my entry, Skid Breaker couldn't wait to show me his quarterly exam marks. The sight of them, however, nearly gave me a heart attack. They were low. =(
Science, 60%. Reading, 63%. Language, 64%. And so on, with Maths being the only bright spot. But his mother takes care of his Maths.
"This isn't funny!" I moaned when I saw him laughing. "I've been fired from tutoring jobs for better results than this."
His eyes widened. "No, Teacher! It's good!"
He went on to explain that before I had waltzed into his life, he was barely clearing the 50% mark for all subjects. These grades were the highest he had earned since he had moved to the Philippines and had to take all his subjects in English.
Ah, when you put it that way . . .