Monday, December 03, 2012

a very good session

The kids I tutored turned out to be great: smart, well-behaved, motivated-- and gifted, thank God, with a sense of humor. One thing I can't stand is a kid who acts dead for two hours: bored, listless, and humorless. Such kids are empty-headed basket cases. To hell with them.

The brother is two years older than the sister, but the sister is obviously more verbally gifted. All the same, they're both going to need a lot of help in English; they've been in the States for only two years, and although their English is fantastic by that standard, it's not up to the challenge of a typically grueling American standardized test.

I asked both siblings to write speculative essays on the state of multimedia technology fifty years from now, and what they wrote strained the concept of coherence. I gave both of them a 3 out of 6, based on the SAT scoring rubric: both essays contained interesting information and showed some level of organization, but both were also extremely weak in terms of their introductions and theses, which needed more punch. Both essays were also riddled with minor errors, the accumulation of which detracted points from the final product. The errors were typically Korean in nature: spelling, subject/verb agreement, problems with third-person and plural "s," problems with tense control, problems with articles and diction and so on. It all felt so familiar, almost as if I were back in Korea.

We spent a good chunk of today just talking about what the students want out of the private tutoring, and that gave me an idea as to what textbooks I needed to purchase, and which books I needed to dust off and pull from my own shelves. It's going to be a tall order: I've "Amazoned" some books from the "501" series-- books we routinely use at YB Near, such as 501 Reading Comprehension Questions, 501 Writing Prompts, 501 Grammar and Writing Questions, and 501 Critical Reading Questions. The brother says he also needs help with geometry, so I've ordered a very good-looking Barron's guide that seems to cover all the basics of high-school geometry. From my own shelves, I've pulled the Interchange series of English conversation, as well as a nice book on pronunciation exercises. I'm also looking to order a book of short stories, as both youngsters expressed an interest in reading (and maybe doing) creative writing. In that vein, we talked briefly about Thurber's "The Owl Who Was God" today, exploring the story as a commentary on the stupidity that often accompanies belief.

All in all, I feel lucky to have met such good students. I admit to having been a bit worried, before class, as to what I might find. Some of my tutees in Korea were shy to the point of near-catatonia-- stiff, resistant clay to work with, not to mention a real pain in the ass. These kids, though, have begun to Americanize, and they're blessed with a natural sense of the goofy, which makes my life easier. I look forward to teaching them again in two weeks. Today's lesson, which ran from 2PM to about 4:15PM (I went a little overtime), was free; the paid lessons begin on December 16, once I'm (theoretically) back from Korea.


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