Monday, March 22, 2010

Ways of Asking For Things

A student came in after school concerned about her algebra 1 grade. This 6 weeks, she was absent for maybe 2 days in one stretch, and then she basically never got back up to speed turning her in stuff (in any of her classes). Then, thank goodness for good parenting, she's now concerned about her grade because her birthday is coming up soon, and if her grades are stinky, well mom won't be too much in the birthday mood.

So I love how she tried to turn in some late work. First of all, she turned it in during class a while ago claiming it was absent work - about 3 week old work, so I gave it back to her and said it was too late (as is our school policy) (thank you sane administrators). Then she tried to turn in stuff after school today. Hmmmm, one had 2 problems out of 8 done, and another had 6 out of 8 done. She tried to do the "air quotes" thing with me claiming that she'd tried to turn them in earlier, but I wouldn't accept them so they were "air quotes" too late "air quotes".

Now I just have to laugh. I asked her why she hadn't done the work. "Well I didn't get it, so I thought I'd just turn it in for some credit (2 of 8 problems)". Then I asked why she hadn't come for tutoring. "Well .... excuse, excuse, excuse". Then I quickly disabused her of her air quotes and said, "hopefully you'll be in school for another 7 years (she's a freshman), and you'll have many teachers. Most likely when you're asking them for a favor, it probably won't do too well if you just come with an attitude, and ESPECIALLY if it looks like you're not even interested in learning the material. A better thing would be to say, 'well, it may be too late to turn this in, but can I still have help on knowing how it's done, and I can practice'".

So somehow, magically she could stay for tutoring on the spot, and we worked through some of the problems. She was a quick learner and showed improvement. Her funny statement then was, "why do I get it when I'm working here with you (she's NEVER been to tutoring), and I can't get it at home?". I asked if she was distracted at home when she was doing her homework. BINGO. "Well, I guess so, but don't tell my mom." We discussed that math was hard, and you had to think about things as you were doing them, and not just half pay attention to your homework.

Maybe she's seen a wee bit of light? Or .... most likely, this is the upswing of the see-saw that is a teenager's personality .... and her birthday incentive will be gone soon. ... I'll take what I can get.


  1. Ha - outrageously typical.

  2. As a tutor, I often hear things like "why do I get it when I'm working here with you but not in class." Kids often jump to the conclusion that their teacher is bad, but I think your example shows that it's just the one-on-one attention that does the trick. Kudos to you for giving your student that attention!