Working with a Student

Photo by Michele Venne

On occasion, a student and teacher click in a particularly special way. The student ends up working extra hard in the class, spends time outside of class with the teacher to learn more about the subject or project, and may decide that they want to be a teacher or work in the subject field.

A student open to that type of deep learning can go anywhere. They begin soaking up all the knowledge possible from that teacher, then they take their interest and investigative skills and begin their own research. In essence, the student starts out emulating the instructor, then transitions into a different version of themselves, taking the favorable traits they learned with them. Countless times over the millennia, and in every school of study, there have been a handful of students (Aristotle) who emulated, and then surpassed, their teacher (Plato). 

I was reminded of this while working privately with a student I had on homebound last year (he returned to campus this year, and when faced with tough assignments in math, asked his mom to contact me for individual tutoring). Though we worked through much of the textbook, at the time, he was struggling emotionally. A few months older, now a senior on track to graduate, he knew himself well enough to reach out for help.

As we worked through a chapter to review for an upcoming test, I asked how much he remembered of what we did last year. He said, “A lot. But my teacher this year doesn’t explain things in a way I understand. I take notes, and I can see what he’s doing on the graphing calculator, but it doesn’t always make sense. If I hadn’t worked with you last year, I would be with another tutor for three hours tonight instead of just an hour.”

He wanted to emulate the ease with which I solved the problems. Asking for clarification, for the steps, for how one problem was similar to another are strategies we worked on last year. He has no plans to be a teacher, but he hopes to take what he’s learned from me and apply it to future classes.