Article by Tutor.id tutor, Diogo
If our pursuit of education is driven by acquiring new knowledge, why do we measure education in spans of time, and not by what we have learned?
When I was 15 years old, I started learning at an English training school. I have never tried to learn a foreign language before, and the whole process was new and unfamiliar.
The basic course consisted of 4 semesters. I managed 3 and left.
It wasn’t for lack of trying, and not because it was too difficult. In retrospect, I now understand that I fundamentally disagreed with the format of this kind of teaching. This is why I wound up learning English through a radically different approach. It is also why I apply my own approach to teaching students effectively.
When does a student need extra help?
I lost count of how many times I heard people say that it’s normal for students to get left behind in a classroom instruction settings. Whether the material is difficult for the student, or they just have a hard time keeping up, it’s normal. We are all different, of course, so variability in learning styles and aptitudes towards different studies IS normal. We aren’t robots after all, and can’t do everything the same way.
The remedy to a student who can’t quite keep up is usually tutoring and extra classes. With extra attention, the student often manages to compensate for their previous learning difficulty and catch up.
But, what happens when the opposite problem occurs? For the students that are following the program with ease, there is no special treatment. If a student is getting bored by the pace of the class, they don’t get to finish sooner than others. Instead, they are restricted by the designed pace of the course. This leads to many bright students getting bored, wasting their time in classrooms, held back by the school itself.
The issue here is not the pace itself, or even the school’s attitude — it is the lack of control over your own educational experience. Without having personal control over the learning process, the student is forced to give up, drift along with the program. By taking agency and control over the educational experience, even the struggling students often catch up.
Boredom and Failure
Returning to my English classes, I endured 3 semesters in a school. I was in a class with only several others, but that didn’t make the lessons any more responsive or tailored to my needs. I started to be annoyed by the fact that I wanted to go faster, and get to the advanced lessons, but was held back. I was part of a class and we followed a book with activities limited by class.
I ended up losing the desire to continue. It just felt like a chore. So, I took a break from studying the new language.
After a few years of staying away from language schools and training centers, I found myself in need of improving my English. So, I ended up returning to the classroom, although in a different language school this time. My thinking has changed, and I had a more open mind, as well as more motivation.
I lasted a week.
Becoming an Autodidact
I left school again, even without reaching my goal, but not giving up on it. So, I looked for another way to learn. With the help of a dictionary, I started to translate the texts from the video games I played. I started watching movies and subtitled series and whenever possible. I listened to music while reading the lyrics.
Of course, this was a time before the staggering abundance of learning resources on the internet.
I did learn some things on my own, but I had achieved far less than I hoped. I still didn’t understand everything and felt slow and awkward when having a simple conversation in English.
Finding a Middle Ground
Since I did not want to go through the course process and didn’t get the results I wanted on my own, I had to try something different. Just like the students who are bored to tears in their traditional classrooms, I wanted to find a way to learn at my own pace.
So, I found a private tutor!
Of course, just hiring a private tutor is only the beginning of a journey, but it is a journey where you take control. Instead of being led on a group excursion, you get to chart your own path, while relying on the help of someone who knows the territory.
What I found most helpful in learning with a private tutor, is that you must have a clear objective in mind for what you want to achieve. You can’t just rely on the standard model of a class where you follow along with whatever activities. Instead, you have to pursue something that has real meaning and value to you.
Knowledge grows gradually. There is no point in trying to get ahead in your journey thinking in terms of one or two classes. Instead, you have to learn to understand your natural pace, respect it, and use it to your advantage. For example, if your class is scheduled for an hour, but you can understand everything in 40 minutes, don’t torture yourself for these remaining 20 minutes. Instead, thank the tutor for his work, because the class was scheduled by him, and feel happy to have reached your goal. Schedule the next lesson, and go out and put your knowledge to practice in the meantime. With the right teacher, you can learn anything.
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