Wednesday, March 16, 2011

second day survived

Whew. Second day survived. Record-keeping came to me more easily today, and thanks to a student absence and the lack of a third class, I felt more relaxed. Tomorrow, however, I'm teaching at one of the larger branches, which promises to be a hectic experience. We're supposed to be able to prep nine lessons in twenty minutes. I don't see how this is possible, personally, but it's what's expected of us. I need two hours just to prep six lessons; up to now, I haven't had to prep a full complement of nine. Tomorrow, though, that's likely to change.

YB is run a lot like EC was, but without the degrading obligation to wear a lab coat (it does have a specific dress code, but the code isn't unreasonable). At YB, most lessons are modular and the two-hour time constraint means that teachers need to approach all topics in very specific ways, following certain steps to get students to succeed at their tests. The exception to this is when students want to deal with school assignments. Students aren't supposed to do homework in class (homework is to be done at home!), but there's nothing wrong with helping them understand the principles that will allow them to tackle their homework. The teacher's approach to these issues can be more flexible and organic.

Nevertheless, that student-- the one with the school assignments-- is only one of three, so time management is crucial, and the teacher (or perhaps tutor, as Addofio pointed out in a recent comment, though I see the teacher/tutor distinction as somewhat blurred) still has to bounce back and forth among all the students at a steady rate.

With only two white shirts to my name, I have to wash them and iron them tonight so as to be ready for action tomorrow. Once I start getting a paycheck, one of the things I'll have to do is buy extra shirts, pants, ties, and all the rest. Along with that problem, the car needs repairs, my brothers and friends need to be paid back, and debts need to be reckoned with. I've already mentally tracked where all my money is going, and those first few paychecks are spoken for; it'll be a while before I can actually breathe again, financially speaking.



  1. Dang. How the heck is one supposed to plan a lesson in two minutes?

    Glad to hear the second day came easier, though. Hopefully it will continue to get easier. At the very least the job sounds a lot more steady than your previous employment.

  2. I don't really have a clear picture of the system, but it's sounding like there's a lot of canned curriculum, which would suggest the secret to prepping 9 lessons in 20 minutes would be to know that curriculum well enough that it becomes a matter of quick diagnosis. "Oh, I see, this is topic x, so I use module y", and then gather the materials for module y. Can you study up on the curriculum materials on your own time, to make this easier on workdays?

    Even well-prepped, there'll be the inevitable amount of thinking on your feet while tutoring, as the students go mentally haring off in their own directions. That's the exhausting part of teaching, but for me the part that would keep your job from being pure grind. I like 1-1 work a lot, but I'm not sure I'd like the canned curriculum and pressure so much.

    In any case, may you not only quickly find your way to feeling on top of this job, but find some sparks of joy in it too, to sustain you for the long haul.


  3. Addofio,

    For not having a clear picture of what's going on, you've got it pretty much right. "Canned curriculum," indeed. The basic idea is that mastery of the whole happens through mastery of the parts, so a student who needs help with reading may have to work on targeted drills about making inferences, drawing conclusions, extracting information from context, etc. In language teaching, this doesn't always work, of course; depending on the learner, holistic approaches (e.g., write an essay first, discuss particulars later) can often be more effective.

    A buddy of mine just wrote about how he hates multitasking, despite its popularity as a modern way of doing business. He pointed out that people tend to get less done while multitasking, but they at least appear to be accomplishing more. YB, however, touts its numbers to prove that its method works: the number of kids going to Ivy League schools, the number of points of improvement on the SAT, etc.

    There's a lot about the YB philosophy that I actually agree with, in terms of how to teach well. What I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around is the overall three-to-one approach, which leaves me, at least for now, rather mentally scattered and feeling frenetic. Hence the need for me to come two hours early to prep. Prep time may drop off once I've become so familiar with the material that I can go "boom-boom-boom-- the student needs to continue this unit, that unit, and the other unit."

    We'll see. This is only the beginning, so life may smooth out over the ensuing weeks.



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