Monday was Tax Day in America. As I am someone who works primarily with teenagers, the day doesn’t seem to have much of a bearing on me or my business. However, a tutoring session last week reminded me that sometimes the most random topics work as “real life” examples that help students see things in a new light.
One of my current clients contacted me a couple weeks ago about getting general academic help—organization, catching up on late work, and trying to get more on track as a whole. During our first session, the inevitable question of “Why do I even have to learn some of this stuff?” came up.
As an English teacher, I fielded this question constantly, especially when Shakespeare was on the docket. Students would groan, “When am I ever going to have to know this in the ‘real world’?” Much to their surprise, I would often retort, “You won’t.” And then I would continue: “But working through difficult information is a life skill, and Shakespeare helps you cultivate that skill.” It didn’t take away the agony of wading through Elizabethan iambic pentameter, but it usually balanced out my students’ feelings of hopelessness about their ability (and need) to understand it.
Helping students grasp why they are doing the tasks they are doing is integral to helping them figure out how to problem solve in the task. We have all been there—staring down the barrel of an activity that we don’t want to do. Knowing how that task will help us in the end, while it doesn’t always increase our enjoyment, does contribute positively to our feelings about finishing it. This knowledge certainly helps us open our minds to the multiple ways to work through whatever task it might be, as well.
So, as my student from last week and I were discussing Geometry class and why it was (or was not) necessary, I was able to interject that math as a whole teaches us how to think logically and follow step-by-step processes. I told the student that being able to organize information transfers over to organization in general. And I encouraged this student to think about how learning organizational skills NOW could possibly help for the future. The example I gave? Keeping track of important tax documents so doing taxes (or having them done) becomes a less-complicated process.
One of my passions is helping high schoolers apply their learning on a more global scale—outside of the classwork they so often see as punishing drudgery. Obviously, there are many things we all learned in high school that don’t play a part in the day-to-day. But teens connect more readily to material, even the most boring of material, when they have some reason behind WHY they have to do whatever it is they are being asked to do, and if they are connecting with the material, they are also going to be better able to see how their own thinking and problem-solving skills apply.
If you or anyone you know needs help in any of these areas (or with anything else academic or standardized test-related), don’t hesitate to contact me! My direct contact information is on the Home page or you can send me a message through the “Contact” page.