020. Six Weeks

tldr: a good title for a dystopian novel

Whew, we are almost at the end of this new posting schedule I made for my birthday [all in an effort to post the 18th blog on my 18th. A worthy cause.]. I gotta say, I didn’t hate posting once a day, but I can see how this would get very draining when also taking classes and such. But who would be taking classes over summer, Paige? Great transition.

As my avid and frequent readers know (all three of them, who I appreciate v v much), I am a tutor at Fresno City College. Generally speaking, regular tutoring dies down over summer when high school classes end. But at FCC (and most other colleges) there are summer courses! A weird mixture of fun and intense, with just a hint of satisfaction at the beginning of August [only to soon realize that the Fall semester starts in a few days]. Now, I have taken summer courses at FCC before, but only as a student. As a student, I absolutely love these classes; condensing material into an intense six-weeks, mainly focusing on the most important parts of the curriculum, and heavily relying on self-motivation and responsibility? Sign me up. But as a tutor? I am a little nervous.

One reason is that as a tutor, I get a mixture of students: ones that are at another university, ones in high school, ones who haven’t taken math in years, and ones who thought 6 weeks would be easier than 18, etc.. Now, I am trained to help students from all walks of life– it is one of my favorite parts of the job. What makes it more difficult, is trying to implement strategies for independent learning and studying that students normally have 18 weeks to achieve. The whole “teach a man to fish metaphor”.

It also doesn’t help that right now we are on quarantine, and everything is online. In person, it is a lot easier to have a student crack open a textbook and look at the examples. Additionally, trying to figure out if a student understood you or not is difficult (an issue for all teachers, regardless of a pandemic, but a lot harder when a camera isn’t turned on). There might be some students who I *never* see– and hopefully those are the ones who don’t need help.

So, how am I dealing with the nervousness? Well, for one thing, I am talking a lot more with the professors specifically for their class. This allows me to better personalize learning for students. My hope, is that if I am told that everyone *really* struggled with logarithms, that I can hold a tutoring session with that in mind. I am also working on checking for student’s conceptual understanding of the topic. Before, I used to ask a student to try a problem on the board, but that is no longer an option. So I am getting creative; for instance, I am asking students to summarize what steps we took and why, as opposed to a similar problem.

If I am a tutor and I am nervous for the students, I wonder how much more difficult it is for the professors. Especially classes like Algebra that will affect a student’s math career for years to come. So: what can you as a tutee [or even as a student in fall] do to help out? For one thing, showing your face is so, so helpful. It helps the prof look for confusion, and on a grander scale it helps set up the classroom expectation that it is *okay* to show your face. Even if you look like you just rolled of bed [because you did @ me]. Furthermore, if you go to tutoring, it is a lot more efficient and helpful for both parties if you have tried the homework. For you, it means that I don’t need to waste my time helping on a concept you already understand well, and it lets me know what skills you already have for solving a problem. It is much easier to encourage students when you know what concepts they have down:
“See! Implicit Differentiation is just the Chain Rule, and you can do that– you just showed me you could. You got this.”

Does this mean you have to do these things? Of course not. But I (personally) deeply appreciate hearing the other side’s perspective. It gives me steps I can take to make their job/experience better. Maybe I am just overly empathetic because I want to become a teacher, but still.
So. We have six weeks. A great title for a dystopian novel, a trepid concept for a Pre-Calculus and Calculus 1 tutor. Let’s see how this goes– will update how it went at the end. I hope we all make it through to the other side, although dropping classes is much more likely when a class is 1) online and 2) over summer.


Published by Paige Bright

Hi- my name is Paige Alexandria Bright. I am a rising junior at MIT interested in mathematics and philosophy. I have been writing this blog since the beginning of COVID. Lets see where this goes.

2 thoughts on “020. Six Weeks

    1. myeh, agree to disagree on the first part– granted, one of my favorite dystopian novel series is called ‘Conspiracy 365’ so that is why I thought of it.
      it is! I personally understand it for Calc 1 and maybe 2, but there is just so much information in PreCalc.


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