How do you do your job, anyway?

Workplace comedy!
Workplace comedy!

Week 2 of volunteering at Wellstone was much like the first. It’s probably the highlight of my week, although I’m a little concerned that it’s going to be mad intense to teach 5 days a week. But sometimes I’m just so bored at my office job it’s starting to look like a good trade-off. Be careful what you wish for, Sarah… I do feel like I have to do something worthwhile instead of just pushing papers or rubbing on spa bitches.* Something that’s fun and a little unpredictable, though, unlike my grant-writing job.

One class is starting to be my favorite. I think it’s because I know the students’ names better than the others. And the reason I know the names is because there are some squirrely kids who drive the teacher bonkers and she’s always calling them out by name. They don’t seem like bad kids, so they amuse me a lot more than they do the teacher. If I were trying to cram a lot of information into 50 minutes, I have very little doubt that I’d feel differently.

One of the teachers I work with suggested that I talk to the student teachers about their impressions of the program. Maybe I’ll ask if I can email the student teachers my questions. We don’t have a lot of time between classes, other than a 30-minute lunch. Or maybe I can sneak in one question a week so they begin to dread the sight of me. All I want to know is, “Can I do this?” and they can’t really answer that.

This post is kind of all over. What I really want to ask is, how do you help someone learn without just giving them the answer? I know the theory is leading questions, but I have trouble doing that. For example, I was helping a fourth-grade girl at Homework Hub who had a two-page reading about aircraft carriers (yeah, weird) and some questions to answer. She said she was having trouble finding the answer to one of the questions in the reading. I found it and told her, “It’s in this paragraph. See?” She didn’t really get it right away, so I was like, “It’s the Battle of XXX and the Battle of YYY.”

Did she learn something from that? Maybe she learned that the answers are there if you look for them. I don’t know if she learned a lot about aircraft carriers, but that’s probably not the ultimate point of the lesson anyway. The real question is, can I teach? I don’t think I need to know how to teach NOW–that’s why I’m going to school–but can I learn?

*Not all my clients are spa bitches, but you know who and what I’m talking about. If not, I’m happy to explain it in detail over beers.


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